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Edited with Introductions 


By Pedor Sologrub 


By Vladimir Solovyof 

By V. Doroshevitch 

By Alexander Kuprin 


By L. F. Dostoieffsbaya 

By Vladimir Solovyof 

By Valery Brussof 









VALERY BRUSSOF is a celebrated Russian writer 
of the present time. He is in the front rank of 
contemporary literature, and is undoubtedly very 
gifted, being considered by some to be the greatest of 
living Russian poets, and being in addition a critic of 
penetration and judgment, a writer of short tales, and 
the author of one long historical novel from the life of 
Germany in the sixteenth century. 

He is a Russian of strong European tastes and 
temperament, a sort of Mediterraneanised Russian, 
,with greater affinities in France and Italy than in his 
native land ; an artificial production in the midst of 
the Russian literary world. A hard, polished, and even 
merciless personality, he has little in common with the 
compassionate spirits of Russia. If Kuprin or Gorky 
may be taken as characteristic of modern Russia, 
Brussof is their opposite. He sheds no tears with the 
reader, he makes no passionate and " unmanly " 
defiance of the world, but is restrained and concentrated 
and wrapped up in himself and his ideas. The average 


length of a sentence of Dostoieffsky is probably about 
twenty-five words, of Kuprin thirty, but of Brussof 
only twenty, and if you take the staccato " Republic of 
the Southern Cross," only twelve. His fine virile style 
is admired by Russians for its brevity and directness. 
He has been called a maker of sentences in bronze. 

It is curious, however, that the theme of his writing 
has little in common with the virility of his style. As 
far as our Western point of view is concerned it is con- 
sidered rather feminine than masculine to doubt the 
reality of our waking life and to give credence to 
dreams. Yet such is undoubtedly the preoccupation 
of Brussof in these stories. 

He says in his preface to the second edition of that 
collection which bears the title The Axis of the Earth, 
" the stories are written to show, in various ways, that 
there is no fixed boundary line between the world of 
reality and that of the imagination, between the dream- 
ing and the waking world, life and fantasy ; that what 
we commonly call ' imaginary ' may be the greatest 
reality of the world, and that which all call reality the 
most dreadful delirium." 

This volume, to which we have given the title of 
The Republic of the Southern Cross contains the best of 
Brussof 's tales, and they all exemplify this particular 
attitude towards life. Six tales are taken from The Axis 
of the Earth, but " For Herself or Another " is taken from 


the volume entitled Nights and Days, and " Rhea Silvia " 
and " Eluli, son of Eluli," from the book bearing the 
title of Rhea Silvia, in the Russian Universal Library. 
In Russia, as I have previously pointed out, the 
short story is considered of much more literary im- 
portance than it is here. It is the fashion to write short 
stories, and readers remember those they have read 
and refer to them, as we do to the distinctive and 
memorable poems on our intimate bookshelves. But, 
then, as a rule in Russia a short story must possess as 
its foundation some particular literary idea and con- 
ception. The story written for the sake of the story is 
almost unknown, and as a general rule the sort of 
love story and " love interest " so indispensable with 
us is not asked there. It often happens, therefore, 
that a volume of short tales makes a real and vital 
contribution to literature. I think possibly that these 
specimen volumes of Russian stories which I have edited 
from Sologub Kuprin and Brussof may be helpful in 
our own literary world as affording new conceptions, 
new models, and showing new possibilities of literary 
form. Brussof 's volume is an emotional study of reality 
and unreality cast in the form of brilliant tales. 

" Rhea Silvia," the longest and perhaps the best, 
tells of the dream which becomes reality in the Golden 
House of Nero which had been lost ; the subterranean 


Rome where a Goth can meet a crazed girl who 
imagines she is the vestal Rhea Silvia, the mother of 
Romulus and Remus who founded Rome itself, and 
that the Goth, one of the barbarian destroyers of Rome, 
is the god Mars ; the whole before and after inter- 

In " The Republic of the Southern Cross " Brussof 
projects himself several centuries into the future and 
imagines an industrial community of millions of 
workers, so divorced from reality that they are living 
at the South Pole where no life is possible, in a huge 
town called Star City where no star is visible, because 
they have built an immense opaque roof to the town 
literally a " lid," as they imagine it in New York, 
where they give you the freedom of the city " with the 
lid off " ; where the polar cold is defied by machinery 
which keeps the temperature at the same point for ever, 
and the six months' polar night and, indeed, no 
night is ever known, because the great box is kept 
constantly illuminated by electric light ; Star City, 
where the Town Hall is actually built on the spot of the 
South Pole, the centre of the town, whence you can 
only walk northward, whence the six main roads, with 
thirteen-story buildings on each side, go out like 
meridians of longitude, and the cross-roads are con- 
centric circles of latitude ; Star City, stricken at last 


by the disease of contradiction, which creates anarchy 
between the ideal and the real, impulse and action, 
as if the approximation of latitude and longitude had 
hypnotised men's souls ; plague-stricken Star City, 
where the only refuge is the Town Hall where all 
earthly meridians become one, is all used with appalling 
power by Brussof to suggest his mental conceit. I 
once read outside a Russian theatre, " People of weak 
will are asked to refrain from taking tickets for this 
drama." A similar caution might be addressed to 
those who turn to read " The Republic of the Southern 

" The Mirror," into which the vain woman looks 
and sees a reflection which is not quite herself, who 
detects the particular personality of her reflection, 
becomes afraid of it, is finally overcome by it and 
forced to step into the mirror and let the reflection get 
out and walk about the world, is subtly suggestive of 
the instability of what we call the real, the solid ground 
under our feet. A characteristic detail is that the 
special mirror before which the woman stands is a 
revolving one, and when she gets angry she can make 
it go round like the earth on its axis, and as the glass 
goes over and under, in again and out again, so it is, 
as it were, night and day, dream and waking, reality 
and unreality. 


The drunken locksmith, seeing the seventh-century- 
old Italian bust of a woman in the house to which he 
has been called to repair a desk, and becoming obsessed 
with the idea that it is the face of a woman whose love 
he betrayed, the woman of his bright and fortunate 
days, who tells the long sad story which is more real to 
him than the realities of the prison or the doss-house, 
though he does not himself know whether the story be 
truth or whether he invented it, is another hauntingly 
suggestive tale. 

In " Eluli, son of Eluli," two excavators in the 
French Congo discover a marvellous Phoenician tomb 
somewhere about the equatorial line and only partially 
decipher the curse on those who shall disturb the rest 
of the sleeping Eluli whose tomb it is. It is in a fever- 
stricken district of exhausting climate, and the older 
and weaker of the archaeologists becomes obsessed 
with the reality of the dead Eluli, son of Eluli, who 
visits his bedside and pronounces over him the awful 
curse. Both men eventually perish. Only the normal 
and stronger man, namely, the one further away from 
the axis of reality, remained untouched and unseeing. 

" For Herself or Another," one of the cleverest tales 
in this selection, describes the doubt that a Russian 
tourist has that a fellow-countrywoman whom he sees in 
the crowd is or is not his long-cast-off sweetheart. She 


is so like as to be a perfect double. It seems impossible 
that such similarity between two persons should exist. 
The man conceives the idea that the woman is feigning 
to be someone else merely to punish him. He is so 
persistent that she for her part agrees to pretend that 
she is indeed his old-time friend, and some of the most 
tantalising description is that in which she seems to 
pretend that she is that she is. 

What the new realists who dominate our Western 
schools of philosophy would say to Valery Brussof 
would be curious. He is not an hysterical type of writer 
and is not emotionally convinced of the truth of his 
writing, but wilfully persistent, affirming unreality 
intellectually and defending his conception with a sort 
of masculine impressionism. He drives his idea to the 
reader's mind clad in complete armour, no tenderness, 
no apologetics, no willingness to please a lady's eye 
in the use of his words and phrases. 

The theme of several of the stories might have been 
worked out readily by our Mr. Algernon Blackwood, 
but so would have been more discursive, and the 
mystery of them better hidden. But Brussof, as it 
were, draws the skull and crossbones at the top of the 
page before he writes a word and then goes oa. In- 
evitably the interest is reflected from the stories to the 
personality of the author. 


It should be said that a slight strain of madness 
seems to cast a sort of glamour on an artist in Russia, 
whereas in the West, unless the artist be a musician, 
it is certainly a handicap. One of the strongest pre- 
judices against taking Nietzsche seriously in England 
is that he finished his days in an asylum. And it is as 
prejudicial to be thought pas normal in France as to 
have lost a mental balance with us. But Russia, with 
her epileptic Dost oieff sky, hypochondriac Gogol, in- 
ebriate Nekrasof , has other traditions, and it is not un- 
fitting that the artist who made hundreds of marvel- 
lous studies of a primeval demon, the most clever 
painter of modern Russia, Michael Vrubel, should have 
painted as his last picture before removal to an asylum, 
Valery Brussof, the author of these tales, a reproduc- 
tion of this portrait serving aptly as a frontispiece for 
this book. 

Both Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells have been 
described as average or standard types of intelligence, 
and both are proud of level-headedness. But in the 
Russian literary world claims of that kind are not put 
forward nowadays. In fact, Russia, though most 
heartily progressive perhaps too heartily from our 
point of view does not reckon the credibility of the 
earth and light and truth and ordinary measurement 
as in any way superior to the credibility of the world 
of fantasy. It is worth while writing in Russia, not so 


much to affirm the real as to find and then set in ever 
more striking pose the paradoxes of human life. 

Brussof's poetry, for which he enjoys a great reputa- 
tion, is dedicated to the same ideas as his stories, 
though in them he is before all else a most polished 
craftsman and cares more for perfection of technique 
than for anything else. 

His poetry is not difficult, and can be recommended 
for those who read Russian and prefer to study up-to- 
date matter. In my opinion, however, the best 
volumes of Balmont have more lyrical beauty than the 
best of Brussof. There is, moreover, a good deal of 
erotic verse which is bankrupt of real vital thought, 
as there are stories of this kind not by any means 
commendable for British consumption. Brussof evi- 
dently reads English, and one or two of his poems are 
reminiscent of better things at home. 

In the midst of his wide literary activities Bnissof is 
also an interesting critic, and I know few more eluci- 
dative volumes than " Dalekie i Bliskie, Near and Far," 
a collection of essays on the Russian poets. 







IV. IN THE MIRROR . . . . . . . 55 



VII. RHEA SILVIA . . . ' ... . . . . 94 

VIII. ELULI, SON OF ELULI . . ... . 140 



THERE have appeared lately a whole seties of 
descriptions of the dreadful catastrophe which 
has overtaken the Republic of the Southern Cross. 
They are strikingly various, and give many details 
of a manifestly fantastic and improbable character. 
Evidently the writers of these descriptions have lent a 
too ready ear to the narratives of the survivors from 
Star City (Zvezdny), the inhabitants of which, as is 
common knowledge, were all stricken with a psychical 
distemper. For that reason we consider it opportune 
to give an account here of all the reliable evidence 
which we have as yet of this tragedy of the Southern 

The Republic of the Southern Cross came into being 
some forty years ago, as a development from three 
hundred steel works established in the Southern Polar 
regions. In a circular note sent to each and every 
Government of the whole world, the new state ex- 
pressed its pretensions to all lands, whether mainland 
or island, within the limits of the Antarctic circle, as 


also all parts of these lands stretching beyond the line. 
It announced its readiness to purchase from the various 
other states affected the lands which they considered 
to be under their special protectorate. The preten- 
sions of the new Republic did not meet with any opposi- 
tion on the part of the fifteen great powers of the 
world. Debateable points concerning certain islands 
lying entirely outside the Polar circle, but closely 
related to the Southern Polar state were settled by 
special treaties. On the fulfilment of the various for- 
malities the Republic of the Southern Cross was 
received into the family of world states, and its repre- 
sentatives were recognised by all Governments. 

The chief city of the Republic, having the name of 
Zvezdny, was situated at the actual Pole itself. At 
that imaginary point where the earth's axis passes and 
all earthly meridians become one, stood the Town Hall, 
and the roof with its pointed towers looked upon the 
nadir of the heavens. The streets of the town ex- 
tended along meridians from the Town Hall and these 
meridians were intersected by other streets in con- 
centric circles. The height of all the buildings was the 
same, as was also their external appearance. There 
were no windows in the walls, as all the houses were 
lit by electricity and the streets were lighted by elec- 
tricity. Because of the severity of the climate, an 
impenetrable and opaque roof had been built over the 


town, with powerful ventilators for a constant change 
of air. These localities of the globe have but one day 
in six months, and one long night also of six months, 
but the streets of Zvezdny were always lighted by a 
bright and even light. In the same way in all seasons 
of the year the temperature of the streets was kept at 
one and the same height. 

According to the last census the population of 
Zvezdny had reached two and a half millions. The 
whole of the remaining population of the Republic, 
numbering fifty millions, were concentrated in the 
neighbourhood of the ports and factories. These other 
points were also marked by the settlement of millions 
of people in towns which in external characteristics 
were reminiscent of Zvezdny. Thanks to a clever 
application of electric power, the entrance to the local 
havens remained open all the year round. Overhead 
electric railways connected the most populated parts 
of the Republic, and every day tens of thousands of 
people and millions of kilogrammes of material passed 
along these roads from one town to another. The in- 
terior of the country remained uninhabited. Travellers 
looking out of the train window saw before them only 
monotonous wildernesses, white in winter, and over- 
grown with wretched grass during the three months of 
summer. Wild animals had long since been destroyed, 
and for human beings there was no means of sustenance. 


The more remarkable was the hustling life of the 
ports and industrial centres. In order to give some 
understanding of the life, it is perhaps enough to say 
that of late years about seven-tenths of the whole 
of. the world's output of metal has come from the 
State mines of the Republic. 

The constitution of the Republic, according to out- 
ward signs, appeared to be the realisation of extreme 
democracy. The only fully enfranchised citizens were 
the metal-workers, who numbered about sixty per cent 
of the whole population. The factories and mines were 
State property. The life of the miners was facilitated 
by all possible conveniences, and even with luxury. 
At their disposal, apart from magnificent accommoda- 
tion and a recherche cuisine, were various educational 
institutions and means of amusement : libraries, 
museums, theatres, concerts, halls for all types of sport, 
etc. The number of working hours in the day were 
small in the extreme. The training and teaching of 
children, the giving of medical and legal aid, and the 
ministry of the various religious cults were all taken 
upon itself by the State. Ample provision for all the 
needs and even whims of the workmen of the State 
factories having been made, no wages whatever were 
paid ; but families of citizens who had served twenty 
years in a factory, or who in their years of service had 
died or become enfeebled, received a handsome life- 


pension on condition that they did not leave the 
Republic. From the workmen, by universal ballot, 
the representatives of the Law-making Chamber of the 
Republic were elected, and this Chamber had cognis- 
ance of all the questions of the political life of the 
country, being, however, without power to alter its 
fundamental laws. 

It must be said that this democratic exterior con- 
cealed the purely autocratic tyranny of the share- 
holders and directors of a former Trust. Giving up to 
others the places of deputies in the Chamber they in- 
evitably brought in their own candidates as directors 
of the factories. In the hands of the Board of Directors 
was concentrated the economic life of the country. 
The directors received all the orders and assigned them 
to the various factories for fulfilment ; they purchased 
the materials and the machines for the work ; they 
managed the whole business of the factories. Through 
their hands passed immense sums of money, to be 
reckoned in milliards. The Law-making Chamber 
only certified the entries of debits and credits in the 
upkeep of the factories, the accounts being handed to 
it for that purpose, and the balance on these accounts 
greatly exceeded the whole budget of the Republic. 
The influence of the Board of Directors in the inter- 
national relationships of the Republic was immense. 
Its decisions might ruin whole countries. The prices 


fixed by them determined the wages of millions of 
labouring masses over the whole earth. And, more- 
over, the influence of the Board, though indirect, was 
always decisive in the internal affairs of the Republic. 
The Law-making Chamber, in fact, appeared to be only 
the humble servant of the will of the Board. 

For the preservation of power in its own hands the 
Board was obliged to regulate mercilessly the whole 
life of the country. Though appearing to have liberty, 
the life of the citizens was standardised even to the 
most minute details. The buildings of all the towns of 
the Republic were according to one and the same 
pattern fixed by law. The decoration of all buildings 
used by the workmen, though luxurious to a degree, 
were strictly uniform. All received exactly the same 
food at exactly the same time. The clothes given out 
from the Government stores were unchanging and in 
the course of tens of years were of one and the same 
cut. At a signal from the Town Hall, at a definite 
hour, it was forbidden to go out of the houses. The 
whole Press of the country was subject to a sharp 
censorship. No articles directed against the dictator- 
ship of the Board were allowed to see light. But, as a 
matter of fact, the whole country was so convinced of 
the benefit of this dictatorship that the compositors 
themselves would have refused to set the type of 
articles criticising the Board. The factories were full 

of the Board's spies. At the slightest manifestation of 
discontent with the Board the spies hastened to arrange 
meetings and dissuade the doubters with passionate 
speeches. The fact that the life of the workmen of the 
Republic was the object of the envy of the entire world 
was of course a disarming argument. It is said that in 
cases of continued agitation by certain individuals the 
Board did not hesitate to resort to political murder. In 
any case, during the whole existence of the Republic, the 
universal ballot of the citizens never brought to power 
on representative who was hostile to the directors. 

The population of Zvezdny was composed chiefly of 
workmen who had served their time. They were, so to 
speak, Government shareholders. The means which 
they received from the State allowed them to live richly. 
It is not astonishing, therefore, that Zvezdny was 
reckoned one of the gayest cities of the world. For 
various entrepreneurs and entertainers it was a gold- 
mine. The celebrities of the world brought hither their 
talents. Here were the best operas, best concerts, best 
exhibitions ; here were brought out the best-informed 
gazettes. The shops of Zvezdny amazed by the rich- 
ness of their choice of goods ; the restaurants by the 
luxury and the delicacy of their service. Resorts of 
evil, where all forms of debauch invented in either the 
ancient or the modern world were to be found, 
abounded. However, the governmental regulation of 


life was preserved in Zvezdny also. It is true that the 
decorations of lodgings and the fashions of dress were 
not compulsorily determined, but the law forbidding 
the exit from the house after a certain hour remained 
in force, a strict censorship of the Press was main- 
tained, and many spies were kept by the Board. Order 
was officially maintained by the popular police, but at 
the same time there existed the secret police of the all- 
cognisant Board. 

Such was in its general character the system of life 
in the Republic of the Southern Cross and in its capital. 
The problem of the future historian will be to determine 
how much this system was responsible for the outbreak 
and spread of that fatal disease which brought to 
destruction the town of Zvezdny, and with it, perhaps, 
the whole young Republic. 

The first cases of the disease of "contradiction " were 
observed in the Republic some twenty years ago. It 
had then the character of a rare and sporadic malady. 
Nevertheless, the local mental experts were much 
interested by it and gave a circumstantial account of 
the symptoms at the international medical congress at 
Lhasa, where several reports of it were read. Later, 
it was somehow or other forgotten, though in the 
mental hospitals of Zvezdny there never was any diffi- 
culty in finding examples. The disease received its 


name from the fact that the victims continuously con- 
tradicted their wishes by their actions, wishing one 
thing but saying and doing another. [The scientific 
name of the disease is mania contradicens.] It begins 
with fairly feeble symptoms, generally those of char- 
acteristic aphasia. The stricken, instead of saying 
" yes," say " no " ; wishing to say caressing words, 
they splutter abuse, etc. The majority also begin to 
contradict themselves in their behaviour ; intending 
to go to the left they turn to the right, thinking to 
raise the brim of a hat so as to see better they would 
pull it down over their eyes instead, and so on. As the 
disease develops contradiction overtakes the whole of 
the bodily and spiritual life of the patient, exhibiting 
infinite diversity conformable with the idiosyncrasies 
of each. In general, the. speech of the patient becomes 
unintelligible and his actions absurd. The normality 
of the physiological functions of the organism is dis- 
turbed. Acknowledging the unwisdom of his behaviour 
the patient gets into a state of extreme excitement 
bordering even upon insanity. Many commit suicide, 
sometimes in fits of madness, sometimes in moments of 
spiritual brightness. Others perish from a rush of 
blood to the brain. In almost all cases the disease is 
mortal ; cases of recovery are extremely rare. 

The epidemic character was taken by mania con- 
tradicens during the middle months of this year in 


Zvezdny. Up till this time the number of cases had 
never exceeded two per cent of the total number of 
patients in the hospitals. But this proportion sud- 
denly rose to twenty-five per cent during the month of 
May (autumn month, as it is called in the Republic), 
and it continued to increase during the succeeding 
months with as great rapidity. By the middle of June 
there were already two per cent of the whole popula- 
tion, that is, about fifty thousand people, officially 
notified as suffering from " contradiction." We have 
no statistical details of any later date. The hospitals 
overflowed. The doctors on the spot proved to be alto- 
gether insufficient. And, moreover, the doctors them- 
selves, and the nurses in the hospitals, caught the 
disease also. There was very soon no one to whom to 
appeal for medical aid, and a correct register of patients 
became impossible. The evidence given by eye- 
witnesses, however, is in agreement on this point, that 
it was impossible to find a family in which someone was 
not suffering. The number of healthy people rapidly 
decreased as panic caused a wholesale exodus from the 
town, but the number of the stricken increased. It is 
probably true that in the month of August all who had 
remained in Zvezdny were down with this psychical 

It is possible to follow the first developments of the 


epidemic by the columns of the local newspapers, 
headed in ever larger type as the mania grew. Since 
the detection of the disease in its early stages was very 
difficult, the chronicle of the first days of the epidemic 
is full of comic episodes. A train conductor on the 
metropolitan railway, instead of receiving money from 
the passengers , himself pays them . A policeman , whose 
duty it was to regulate the traffic, confuses it all day 
long. A visitor to a gallery, walking from room to 
room, turns all the pictures with their faces to the wall. 
A newspaper page of proof, being corrected by the 
hand of a reader already overtaken by the disease, is 
printed next morning full of the most amusing absurd- 
ities. At a concert, a sick violinist suddenly interrupts 
the harmonious efforts of the orchestra with the most 
dreadful dissonances. A whole long series of such 
happenings gave plenty of scope for the wits of local 
journalists. But several instances of a different type 
of phenomenon caused the jokes to come to a sudden 
end. The first was that a doctor overtaken by the 
disease prescribed poison for a girl patient in his care 
and she perished. For three days the newspapers were 
taken up with this circumstance. Then two nurses 
walking in the town gardens were overtaken by " con- 
tradiction," and cut the throats of forty-one children. 
This event staggered the whole city. But on the even- 


ing of the same day two victims fired the mitrailleuse 
from the quarters of the town militia and killed and 
injured some five hundred people. 

At that, all the newspapers and the society of the 
town cried for prompt measures against the epidemic. 
At a special session of the combined Board and Legal 
Chamber it was decided to invite doctors from other 
towns and from abroad, to enlarge the existing 
hospitals, to build new ones, and to construct every- 
where isolation barracks for the sufferers, to print and 
distribute five hundred thousand copies of a brochure 
on the disease, its symptoms and means of cure, to 
organise on all the streets of the town a special patrol 
of doctors and their helpers for the giving of first aid 
to those who had not been removed from private lodg- 
ings. It was also decided to run special trains daily on 
all the railways for the removal of the patients, as the 
doctors were of opinion that change of air was one of 
the best remedies. Similar measures were undertaken 
at the same time, by various associations, societies, and 
clubs. A " society for struggle with the epidemic " 
was even founded, and the members gave themselves 
to the work with remarkable self-devotion. But in 
spite of all these measures the epidemic gained ground 
each day, taking in its course old men and little 
children, working people and resting people, chaste 
and debauched. And soon the whole of society was 


enveloped in the unconquerable elemental terror of the 
unheard-of calamity. 

The flight from Zvezdny commenced. At first only 
a few fled, and these were prominent dignitaries, 
directors, members of the Legal Chamber and of the 
Board, who hastened to send their families to the 
southern cities of Australia and Patagonia. Following 
them, the accidental elements of the population fled 
those foreigners gladly sojourning in the " gayest city 
of the southern hemisphere," theatrical artists, various 
business agents, women of light behaviour. When the 
epidemic showed no signs of abating the shopkeepers 
fled. They hurriedly sold off their goods and left their 
empty premises to the will of Fate. With them went 
the bankers, the owners of theatres and restaurants, 
the editors and the publishers. At last, even the 
established inhabitants were moved to go. According 
to law the exit of workmen from the Republic without 
special sanction from the Government was forbidden 
on pain of loss of pension. Deserters began to increase. 
The employes of the town institutions fled, the militia 
fled, the hospital nurses fled, the chemists, the doctors. 
The desire to flee became in its turn a mania. Every- 
one fled who could. 

The stations of the electric railway were crushed 
with immense crowds, tickets were bought for huge 
sums of money and only held by fighting. For a place 


in a dirigible, which took only ten passengers, one paid 
a whole fortune. ... At the moment of the going out 
of trains new people would break into the compart- 
ments and take up places which they would not re- 
linquish except by compulsion. Crowds stopped the 
trains which had been fitted up exclusively for patients, 
dragged the latter out of the carriages and compelled 
the engine-drivers to go on. From the end of May 
train service, except between the capital and the ports, 
ceased to work. From Zvezdny the trains went out 
overfull, passengers standing on the steps and in the 
corridors, even daring to cling on outside, despite the 
fact that with the speed of contemporary electric rail- 
ways any person doing such a thing risks suffocation. 
The steamship companies of Australia, South America 
and South Africa grew inordinately rich, transporting 
the refugees of the Republic to other lands. The two 
Southern companies of dirigibles were not less pros- 
perous, accomplishing, as they did, ten journeys a day 
and bringing away from Zvezdny the last belated 
millionaires. ... On the other hand, trains arrived at 
Zvezdny almost empty ; for no wages was it possible to 
persuade people to come to work at the Capital ; only 
now and again eccentric tourists and seekers of new 
sensations arrived at the towns. It is reckoned that 
from the beginning of the exodus to the twenty-second 
of June, when the regular service of trains ceased, there 


passed out of Zvezdny by the six railroads some million 
and a half people, that is, almost two-thirds of the 
whole population. 

By his enterprise, valour, and strength of will, one 
man earned for himself eternal fame, and that was the 
President of the Board, Horace Deville. At the special 
session of the fifth of June, Deville was elected, both 
by the Board and by the Legal Chamber, Dictator over 
the town, and was given the title of Nachalnik. He 
had sole control of the town treasury, of the militia, 
and of the municipal institutions. At that time it was 
decided to remove from Zvezdny to a northern port the 
Government of the Republic and the archives. The 
name of Horace Deville should be written in letters of 
gold among the most famous names of history. For 
six weeks he struggled with the growing anarchy in the 
town. He succeeded in gathering around him a group 
of helpers as unselfish as himself. He was able to en- 
force discipline, both in the militia and in the municipal 
service generally, for a considerable time, though these 
bodies were terrified by the general calamity and 
decimated by the epidemic, hundreds of thousands 
owe their escape to Horace Deville, as, thanks to his 
energy and organising power, it was possible for them 
to leave. He lightened the misery of the last days of 
thousands of others, giving them the possibility of 
dying in hospitals, carefully looked after, and not 


simply being stoned or beaten to death by the mad 
crowd. And Deville preserved for mankind the 
chronicle of the catastrophe, for one cannot but con- 
sider as a chronicle his short but pregnant telegrams, 
sent several times a day from the town of Zvezdny to 
the temporary residence of the Government of the 
Republic at the Northern port. Deville's first work 
on becoming Nachalnik of the town was to attempt to 
restore calm to the population. He issued manifestos 
proclaiming that the psychical infection was most 
quickly caught by people who were excited, and he 
called upon all healthy and balanced persons to use 
their authority to restrain the weak and nervous. 
Then Deville used the Society for Struggle with the 
Epidemic and put under the authority of its members 
all public places, theatres, meeting-houses, squares, 
and streets. In these days there scarcely ever passed 
an hour but a new case of infection might be discovered. 
Now here, now there, one saw faces or whole groups 
of faces manifestly expressive of abnormality. The 
greater number of the patients, when they understood 
their condition, showed an immediate desire for help. 
But under the influence of the disease this wish ex- 
pressed itself in various types of hostile action directed 
against those standing near. The stricken wished to 
hasten home or to a hospital, but instead of doing this 
they fled in fright to the outskirts of the town. The 


thought occurred to them to ask the passer-by to do 
something for them, but instead of that they seized 
him by the throat. In this way many were suffocated, 
struck down, or wounded with knife or stick. So the 
crowd, whenever it found itself in the presence of a man 
suffering from "contradiction," took to flight. At these 
moments the members of the Society would appear on 
the scene, capture the sick man, calm him, and take 
him to the nearest hospital ; it was their work to reason 
with the crowd and explain that there was really no 
danger, that the general misfortune had simply spread 
a little further, and it was their duty to struggle with it 
to the full extent of their powers. 

The sudden infection of persons present in the 
audience of theatres or meeting-houses often led to the 
most tragic catastrophes. Once at a performance of 
Opera some hundreds of people stricken mad in a mass, 
instead of expressing their approval of the vocalists, 
flung themselves on the stage and scattered blows right 
and left. At the Grand Dramatic Theatre, an actor, 
whose role it was to commit suicide by a revolver shot, 
fired the revolver several times at the public. It was, of 
course, blank cartridge, but it so acted on the nerves of 
those present that it hastened the symptoms of the 
disease in many in whom it was latent . In the confusion 
which followed several scores of people were killed. But 
worst of all was that which happened in the Theatre 


of Fireworks. The detachment of militia posted there 
in case of fire suddenly set fire to the stage and to the 
veils by which the various light effects are obtained. 
Not less than two hundred people were burnt or 
crushed to death. After that occurrence Horace 
Deville closed all the theatres and concert-rooms in the 

The robbers and thieves now began to constitute a 
grave danger for the inhabitants, and in the general 
disorganisation they were able to carry their depreda- 
tions very far. It is, said that some of them came to 
Zvezdny from abroad. Some simulated madness in 
order to escape punishment, others felt it unnecessary 
to make any pretence of disguising their open robberies. 
Gangs of thieves entered the abandoned shops, broke 
into private lodgings, and took off the more valuable 
things or demanded gold ; they stopped people in the 
streets and stripped them of their valuables, such as 
watches, rings, and bracelets. And there accompanied 
the robberies outrage of every kind, even of the most 
disgusting. The Nachalnik sent companies of militia 
to hunt down the criminals, but they did not dare to 
join in open conflict. There were dreadful moments 
when among the militia or among the robbers would 
suddenly appear a case of the disease, and friend would 
turn his weapon against friend. At first the Nachalnik 
banished from the town the robbers who fell under 


arrest. But those who had charge of the prison trains 
liberated them, in order to take their places. Then the 
Nachalnik was obliged to condemn the criminals to 
death. So almost after three centuries' break capital 
punishment was introduced once more on the earth. 
In June a general scarcity of the indispensable articles 
of food and medicine began to make itself felt. The 
import by rail diminished ; manufacture within the 
town practically ceased. Deville organised the town 
bakeries and the distribution of bread and meat to the 
people. In the town itself the same common tables 
were set up as had long since been established in the 
factories. But it was not possible to find sufficient 
people for kitchen and service. Some voluntary 
workers toiled till they were exhausted, and they 
gradually diminished in numbers. The town crema- 
toriums flamed all day, but the number of corpses did 
not decrease but increased. They began to find bodies 
in the streets and left in houses. The municipal 
business such as telegraph, telephone, electric light, 
water supply, sanitation, and the rest, were worked by 
fewer and fewer people. It is astonishing how much 
Deville succeeded in doing. He looked after everything 
and everyone. One conjectures that he never knew a 
moment's rest. And all who were saved testify 
unanimously that his activity was beyond praise. 
Towards the middle of June shortage of labour on 


the railways began to be felt. There were not enough 
engine-drivers or conductors. On the i/th of July the 
first accident took place on the South- Western line, 
the reason being the sudden attack of the engine-driver. 
In the paroxysm of his disease the driver took his train 
over a precipice on to a glacier and almost all the 
passengers were killed or crippled. The news of this 
was brought to the town by the next train, and it came 
as a thunderbolt. A hospital train was sent off at 
once ; it brought back the dead and the crippled, but 
towards the evening of that day news was circulated 
that a similar catastrophe had taken place on the First 
line. Two of the railway tracks connecting Zvezdny 
with the outside world were damaged. Breakdown 
gangs were sent from Zvezdny and from North Port 
to repair the lines, but it was almost impossible because 
of the winter temperature. There was no hope that on 
these lines train service would be resumed at least, 
in the near future. 

These catastrophes were simply patterns for new 
ones. The more alarmed the engine-drivers became 
the more liable they were to the disease and to the 
repetition of the mistake of their predecessors. Just 
because they were afraid of destroying a train they 
destroyed it. During the five days from the eighteenth 
to the twenty-second of June seven trains with 
passengers were wrecked. Thousands of passengers 


perished from injuries or starved to death unrescued 
in the snowy wastes. Only very few had sufficient 
strength to return to the city by their own efforts. The 
six main lines connecting Zvezdny with the outer world 
were rendered useless. The service of dirigibles had 
ceased earlier. One of them had been destroyed by 
the enraged mob, the pretext given being that they 
were used exclusively for the rich. The others, one by 
one, were wrecked, the disease probably attacking the 
crew. The population of the city was at this time 
about six hundred thousand. For some time they were 
only connected with the world by telegraph.- 

On the 24th of June the Metropolitan railway ceased 
to run. On the 26th the telephone service was dis- 
continued. On the 27th all chemists' shops, except the 
large central store, were closed. On the ist of July the 
inhabitants were ordered to come from the outer parts 
of the town into the central districts, so that order 
might better be maintained, food distributed, and 
medical aid afforded. Suburban dwellers abandoned 
their own quarters and settled in those which had 
lately been abandoned by fugitives. The sense of 
property vanished. No one was sorry to leave his own, 
no one felt it strange to take up his abode in other 
people's houses. Nevertheless, burglars and robbers 
did not disappear, though perhaps now one would 
rather call them demented beings than criminals. 


They continued to steal, and great hoards of gold have 
been discovered in the empty houses where they hid 
them, and precious stones beside the decaying body of 
the robber himself. 

It is astonishing that in the midst of universal 
destruction life tended to keep its former course. 
There still were shopkeepers who opened their shops 
and sold for incredible sums the luxuries, flowers, books, 
guns, and other goods which they had preserved. . . . 
Purchasers threw down their unnecessary gold un- 
grudgingly, and miserly merchants hid it, God knows 
why. There still existed secret resorts, with cards, 
women, and wine, whither unfortunates sought refuge 
and tried to forget dreadful reality. There the whole 
mingled with the diseased, and there is no chronicle 
of the scenes which took place. Two or three news- 
papers still tried to preserve the significance of the 
written word in the midst of desolation. Copies of these 
newspapers are being sold now at ten or twenty times 
their original value, and will undoubtedly become 
bibliographical rareties of the first degree. In their 
columns is reflected the horrors of the unfortunate 
town, described in the midst of the reigning madness 
and set by half-mad compositors. There were 
reporters who took note of the happenings of the town, 
journalists who debated hotly the condition of affairs, 
and even feuilletonists who endeavoured to enliven 


these tragic days. But the telegrams received from 
other countries, telling as they did of real healthy 
life, caused the souls of the readers in Zvezdny to fall 
into despair. 

There were desperate attempts to escape. At the 
beginning of July an immense crowd of women and 
children, led by a certain John Dew, decided to set out 
on foot for the nearest inhabited place, Londontown^ 
Deville understood the madness of this attempt, but 
could not stop the people, and himself supplied them 
with warm clothing and provisions. This whole crowd 
of about two thousand people were lost in the snow 
and in the continuous Polar night. A certain Whiting 
started to preach a more heroic remedy : this was, to 
kill all who were suffering from the disease, and he held 
that after that the epidemic would cease. He found 
a considerable number of adherents, though in those 
dark days the wildest, most inhuman, proposal which 
in any way promised deliverance would have obtained 
attention. Whiting and his friends broke into every 
house in the town and destroyed whatever sick they 
found. They massacred the patients in the hospitals, 
they even killed those suspected to be unwell. Robbers 
and madmen joined themselves to these bands of ideal 
murderers. The whole town became their arena. In 
these difficult days Horace Deville organised his 
fellow-workers into a military force, encouraged them 


with his spirit, and set out to fight the followers of 
Whiting. This affair lasted several days. Hundreds 
of men fell on one side or the other, till at last Whiting 
himself was taken. He appeared to be in the last stages 
of mania contradicens and had to be taken to the 
hospital, where he soon perished, instead of to the 

On the eighth of July one of the worst things 
happened. The controller of the Central Power Station 
smashed all the machinery. The electric light failed, 
and the whole city was plunged in absolute darkness. 
As there was no other means of lighting and warming 
the city, the people were left in a helpless plight. 
Deville had, however, foreseen such an eventuality and 
had accumulated a considerable quantity of torches 
and fuel. Bonfires were lighted in all the streets. 
Torches were distributed in thousands. But these 
miserable lights could not illumine the gigantic per- 
spectives of the city of Zvezdny, the tens of kilometres 
of straight line highways, the gloomy height of thirteen- 
storey buildings. With the darkness the last discipline 
of the city was lost. Terror and madness finally 
possessed all souls. The healthy could not be dis- 
tinguished from the sick. There commenced a dreadful 
orgy of the despairing. 

The moral sense of the people declined with astonish- 
ing rapidity. Culture slipped from off these people 


like a delicate bark, and revealed man, wild and naked, 
the man-beast as he was. All sense of right was lost, 
force alone was acknowledged. For women, the only 
law became that of desire and of indulgence. The most 
virtuous matrons behaved as the most abandoned, 
with no continence or faith, and used the vile language 
of the tavern. Young girls ran about the streets de- 
mented and unchaste. Drunkards made feasts in 
ruined cellars, not in any way distressed that amongst 
the bottles lay unburied corpses. All this was con- 
stantly aggravated by the breaking out of the disease 
afresh. Sad was the position of children, abandoned 
by their parents to the will of Fate. They died of 
hunger, of injury after assault, and they were murdered 
both purposely and by accident. It is even affirmed 
that cannibalism took place. 

In this last period of tragedy Horace Deville could 
not, of course, afford help to the whole population. 
But he did arrange in the Town Hall shelter for those 
who still preserved their reason. The entrances to the 
building were barricaded and sentries were kept con- 
tinuously on guard. There was food and water for 
three thousand people for forty days. Deville, how- 
ever, had only eighteen hundred people, and though 
there must have been other people with sound minds 
in the town, they could not have known what Deville 
was doing, and these remained in hiding in the houses. 


Many resolved to remain indoors till the end, and 
bodies have been found of many who must have died of 
hunger in their solitude. It is remarkable that among 
those who took refuge in the Town Hall there were 
very few new cases of the disease. Deville was able to 
keep discipline in his small community. He kept till 
the last a journal of all that happened, and that journal, 
together with the telegrams, makes the most reliable 
source of evidence of the catastrophe. The journal was 
found in a secret cupboard of the Town Hall, where the 
most precious documents were kept. The last entry 
refers to the 2oth of July. Deville writes that a de- 
mented crowd is assailing the building, and that he is 
obliged to fire with revolvers upon the people. " What 
I hope for," he adds, " I know not. No help can be 
expected before "the spring. We have not the food to 
live till the spring. But I shall fulfil my duty to the 
end." These were the last words of Deville. Noble 
words ! 

It must be added that on the 2ist of July the crowd 
took the Town Hall by storm, and its defenders were 
all killed or scattered. The body of Deville has not yet 
been found, and there is no reliable evidence as to what 
took place in the town after the 2ist. It must be con- 
jectured, from the state in which the town was found, 
that anarchy reached its last limits. The gloomy 
streets, lit up by the glare of bonfires of furniture and 


books, can be imagined. They obtained fire by striking 
iron on flint. Crowds of drunkards and madmen 
danced wildly about the bonfires. Men and women 
drank together and passed the common cup from lip 
to lip. The worst scenes of sensuality were witnessed. 
Some sort of dark atavistic sense enlivened the souls 
of these townsmen, and half-naked, unwashed, un- 
kempt, they danced the dances of their remote an- 
cestors, the contemporaries of the cave-bears, and they 
sang the same wild songs as did the hordes when they 
fell with stone axes upon the mammoth. With songs, 
with incoherent exclamations, with idiotic laughter, 
mingled the cries of those who had lost the power to 
express in words their own delirious dreams, mingled 
also the moans of those in the convulsions of death. 
Sometimes dancing gave way to fighting for a barrel 
of wine, for a woman, or simply without reason, in a 
fit of madness brought about by contradictory emotion. 
There was nowhere to flee ; the same dreadful scenes 
were everywhere, the same orgies everywhere, the same 
fights, the same brutal gaiety or brutal rage or else, 
absolute darkness, which seemed more dreadful, even 
more intolerable to the staggered imagination. 

Zvezdny became an immense black box, in which 
were some thousands of man-resembling beings, 
abandoned in the foul air from hundreds of thousands 
of dead bodies, where amongst the living was not one 


who understood his own position. This was the city of 
the senseless, the gigantic madhouse, the greatest and 
most disgusting Bedlam which the world has ever seen. 
And the madmen destroyed one another, stabbed or 
strangled one another, died of madness, died of terror, 
died of hunger, and of all the diseases which reigned in 
the infected air. 

It goes without saying that the Government of the 
Republic did not remain indifferent to the great 
calamity which had overtaken the capital. But it very 
soon became clear that no help whatever could be 
given. No doctors, nurses, officers, or workmen of any 
kind would agree to go to Zvezdny. After the break- 
down of the railroad service and of the airships it was, 
of course, impossible to get there, the climatic condi- 
tions being too great an obstacle. Moreover, the atten- 
tion of the Government was soon absorbed by cases of 
the disease appearing in other towns of the Republic. 
In some of these it threatened to take on the same 
epidemic character, and a social panic set in that was 
akin to what happened in Zvezdny itself. A wholesale 
exodus from the more populated parts of the Republic 
commenced. The work in all the mines came to a 
standstill, and the entire industrial life of the country 
faded away. But thanks, however, to strong measures 
taken in time, the progress of the disease was arrested 


in these towns, and nowhere did it reach the proportions 
witnessed in the capital. 

The anxiety with which the whole world followed 
the misfortunes of the young Republic is well known. 
At first no one dreamed that the trouble could grow to 
what it did, and the dominant feeling was that of 
curiosity. The chief newspapers of the world (and in 
that number our own Northern European Evening News) 
sent their own special correspondents to Zvezdny to 
write up the epidemic. Many of these brave knights 
of the pen became victims of their own professional 
obligations. When the news became more alarming, 
various foreign governments and private societies 
offered their services to the Republic. Some sent 
troops, others doctors, others money ; but the cata- 
strophe developed with such rapidity that this good- 
will could not obtain fulfilment. After the breakdown 
of the railway service the only information received 
from Zvezdny was that of the telegrams sent by the 
Nachalnik. These telegrams were forwarded to the 
ends of the earth and printed in millions of copies. 
After the wreck of the electrical apparatus the tele- 
graph service lasted still a few days longer, thanks to 
the accumulators of the power-house. There is no 
accurate information as to why the telegraph service 
ceased altogether ; perhaps the apparatus was de- 
stroyed. The last telegram of Horace Deville was that 


of the ayth of June. From that date, for almost six 
weeks, humanity remained without news of the capital 
of the Republic. 

During July several attempts were made to reach 
Zvezdny by air. Several new airships and aeroplanes 
were received by the Republic. But for a long time all 
efforts to reach the city failed. At last, however, the 
aeronaut, Thomas Billy, succeeded in flying to the un- 
happy town. He picked up from the roof of the town 
two people in an extreme state of hunger and mental 
collapse. Looking through the ventilators Billy saw 
that the streets were plunged in absolute darkness ; 
but he heard wild cries, and understood that there were 
still living human beings in the town. Billy, however, 
did not dare to let himself down into the town itself. 
Towards the end of August one line of the electric rail- 
way was put in order as far as the station Lissis, a 
hundred and five kilometres from the town. A detach- 
ment of well-armed men passed into the town, bearing 
food and medical first-aid, entering by the north- 
western gates. They, however, could not penetrate 
further than the first blocks of buildings, because of the 
dreadful atmosphere. They had to do their work step 
by step, clearing the bodies from the streets, disinfect- 
ing the air as they went. The only people whom they 
met were completely irresponsible. They resembled 
wild animals in their ferocity and had to be captured 


and held by force. About the middle of September 
train service with Zvezdny was once more established 
and trains went regularly. 

At the time of writing the greater part of the town 
has already been cleared. Electric light and heating 
are once more in working order. The only part of the 
town which has not been dealt with is the American 
quarter, but it is thought that there are no living beings 
there. About ten thousand people have been saved, 
but the greater number are apparently incurable. 
Those who have to any degree recovered evince a 
strong disinclination to speak of the life they have gone 
through. What is more, their stories are full of con- 
tradiction and often not confirmed by documentary 
evidence. Various newspapers of the last days of July 
have been found. The latest to date, that of the 22nd 
of July, gives the news of the death of Horace Deville 
and the invitation of shelter in the Town Hall. There 
are, indeed, some other pages marked August, but the 
words printed thereon make it clear that the author 
(who was probably setting in type his own delirium) 
was quite irresponsible. The diary of Horace Deville 
was discovered, with its regular chronicle of events 
from the 28th of June to the 20th of July. The frenzies 
of the last days in the town are luridly witnessed by the 
things discovered in streets and houses. Mutilated 
bodies everywhere : the bodies of the starved, of the 


suffocated, of those murdered by the insane, and some 
even half-eaten. Bodies were found in the most un- 
expected places : in the tunnels of the Metropolitan 
railway, in sewers, in various sheds, in boilers. The 
demented had sought refuge from the surrounding 
terrors in all possible places. The interiors of most 
houses had been wrecked, and the booty which robbers 
had found it impossible to dispose of had been hidden 
in secret rooms and cellars. 

It will certainly be several months before Zvezdny 
will become habitable once more. Now it is almost 
empty. The town, which could accommodate three 
million people, has but thirty thousand workmen, who 
are cleansing the streets and houses. A good number 
of the former inhabitants who had previously fled have 
returned, however, to seek the bodies of their relatives 
and to glean the remains of their lost fortunes. Several 
tourists, attracted by the amazing spectacle of the 
empty town, have also arrived. Two business men 
have opened hotels and are doing pretty well. A small 
cafe"-chantant is to be opened shortly, the troupe for 
which has already been engaged. 

The Northern-European Evening News has for its part 
sent out a new correspondent, Mr. Andrew Ewald, 
and hopes to obtain circumstantial news of all the 
fresh discoveries which may be made in the unfortunate 
capital of the Republic of the Southern Cross. 



T T E had been tried for burglary, and sentenced to a 
* A year's imprisonment. I was struck by the 
behaviour of the old man in court and by the circum- 
stances under which the crime had been committed. 
I obtained permission to visit the prisoner. At first he 
would have nothing to do with me, and would not 
speak ; but finally he told me the story of his life. 

" You are right," said he. " I have seen better days, 
and I haven't always been a miserable wanderer 
about the streets, nor always slept in night-houses. I 
had a good education. I am an engineer. In my 
youth I had a little money and I lived a gay life : 
every evening I went to a party or to a ball and ended 
up with a drinking bout. I remember that time well, 
even trifling details I remember. And yet there is a 
gap in my recollections that I would give all the rest of 
my unworthy life to fill up everything which has any- 
thing to do with Nina. 

" She was called Nina, dear sir ; yes, Nina. I'm sure 
of that. Her husband was a minor official on the 
D 33 


railway. They were poor. But how clever she was in 
making of the pitiful surroundings of her life something 
elegant and, as it were, specially refined. She herself 
did the cooking, but her hands were, as it were, care- 
fully wrought. Of her poor clothes she made a marvel- 
lous dream. Yes, and the whole everyday world, on 
contact with her, became fantastical. I myself, meet- 
ing her, became other than I was, better, and shook off, 
as rain from my clothes, all the sordidness of life. 

" May God forgive her sin in loving me. Everything 
around her was so coarse that she couldn't help falling 
In love with me, young and handsome as I was and 
knowing so much poetry by heart. But when I first 
made her acquaintance, and how this I cannot now 
call to mind. Separate pictures draw themselves out 
from the darkness. See, we are at the theatre. She, 
happy, gay (this was so rare with her), is drinking in 
every word of the play, and she is smiling at me. . . . 
I remember her smile. Afterwards, we were together 
at some place or other. She bent her head down to me, 
and said : ' I know that you will not be my happiness 
for very long ; never mind, I shall have lived.' I re- 
member these words. But what happened directly 
afterwards, and whether it is really true that all this 
happened when I was with Nina, I don't know. 

" Of course, it was I who first gave her up. This seems 
to me so natural. All my companions acted in this way : 


they flirted with some married woman, and then, after 
a while, cast her off. I only acted as everybody else 
did, and it didn't even enter my mind that I was 
behaving badly. To steal money, not to pay one's 
debts, to turn informer this was bad, but to cast off a 
woman whom one has loved was only the way of the 
world. A brilliant future was before me, and I could 
not bind myself to a sort of romantic love. It was 
painful, very painful, but I gained the victory over 
myself, and I even saw a podvig in my resolution to 
overcome this pain. 

" I heard that Nina went away afterwards with her 
husband to the south, and that soon after she died. 
But my memories of Nina were so tormenting that I 
avoided at that time all news of her. I tried to know 
nothing about her and not to think of her. I had not 
kept her portrait, I had returned her letters, we had no 
mutual acquaintances and so, little by little, the 
image of Nina was erased from my soul. Do you under- 
stand ? I gradually came to forget Nina, forget her 
entirely, her face, her name, and all her love. It came 
to be as if she had actually never existed at all in my 
life. . . . Ah, there's something shameful for a man in 
this ability to forget ! 

" The years went by. I won't tell you now how I 
' made a career.' Without Nina, of course I dreamed 
only of external success, of money. At one time I had 


nearly obtained the complete success at which I aimed. 
I could spend thousands, could travel abroad. I 
married and had children. Afterwards, everything 
turned to loss'; the works which I designed were un- 
successful ; my wife died ; finding myself left with 
children on my hands, I sent them away to relatives, 
and now, God forgive me, I don't even know if my 
little boys are alive. As you may guess, I drank and 
played cards. ... I started an agency it did not 
succeed ; it swallowed up my last money and energy. 
I tried to get straight by gambling, and only just 
escaped being sent to prison yes, and not entirely 
without reason. My friends turned against me and my 
downfall began. 

" Little by little I got to the point where you now see 
me. I, so to speak, ' dropped out ' of intellectual 
society and fell into the abyss. What place could I 
presume to take, badly dressed, almost always drunken? 
Of late years I have worked for months, when not 
drinking, as a labourer in various factories. And when 
I had a drinking bout I would turn up in the Thieves' 
market and doss-houses. I passionately detested the 
people I met, and was always dreaming that suddenly 
my fate would change and I should be rich once more. 
I expected to receive some sort of non-existent inherit- 
ance or something of that kind. And I despised my 
companions because they had no such hope. 


" Well, one day, all shivering with cold and hunger, 
I wander into someone's yard without knowing why, 
and something happens. Suddenly the cook calls out 
to me, ' Hallo, my boy, you don't happen to be a lock- 
smith, do you ? ' ' Yes, I'm a locksmith,' says I. 
They wanted someone to mend the lock of a writing- 
table. I found myself in a luxurious study, gold all 
about, and pictures. I began to work and did what 
was wanted, and the lady gave me a rouble. I took 
the money, and, all of a sudden, I saw on a little white 
pedestal, a marble bust. At first I felt faint. I don't 
know why. I stared at it and couldn't believe : 
Nina ! 

" I tell you, dear sir, I had quite forgotten Nina, and 
at this moment specially, for the first time, I understood 
it, understood that I had forgotten her. Suddenly 
her image swam before my eyes, and a whole universe 
of feelings, dreams, thoughts, buried in my soul as in 
some sort of Atlantis woke, rose again, lived again 
... I look at the marble bust, all trembling, and I say : 
' Permit me to ask, lady, whose bust is that ? ' ' Oh, 
that,' says she, ' is a very valuable thing ; it was made 
five hundred years ago, in the fifteenth century.' She 
told me the name of the sculptor, but I didn't catch it, 
and she said that her husband had brought this bust 
from Italy, and that because of it there had arisen a 
whole diplomatic correspondence between the Italian 


and Russian Cabinets. ' But/ says the lady to me, 
' you don't mean to say it pleases you ? What an up- 
to-date taste you have ! Don't you see that the ears/ 
says she, ' are not in the right place, and the nose is 
irregular . . . ? ' and she went away ; she went away. 

" I rushed out as if I were suffocating. This was not 
a likeness, but an actual portrait ; nay more it was a 
sort of re-creation of life in marble. Tell me, by what 
miracle could an artist in the fifteenth century make 
those same tiny ears, set on awry, which I knew so well, 
those same eyes, just a tiny bit aslant, that irregular 
nose, and the high sloping forehead, out of which un- 
expectedly you got the most beautiful, the most capti- 
vating woman's face ? By what miracle could there 
live two women so much alike one in the fifteenth 
century, the other in our own day ? And that she 
whom the sculptor had modelled was absolutely the 
same, and like to Nina not only in face but in character 
and in soul, I could not doubt. 

" That day changed the whole of my life. I under- 
stood all the meanness of my behaviour in the past and 
all the depth of my fall. I understood Nina as an 
angel, sent to me by Destiny and not recognised by me. 
To bring back the past was impossible. But I began 
eagerly to gather together my remembrances of Nina 
as one might gather up the shattered bits of a precious 
vase. How few they were ! Try as I would I could get 


nothing whole. All were fragments, splinters. But 
how I rejoiced when I succeeded in making out in my 
soul something new. Thinking over these things and 
remembering, I would spend whole hours ; people 
laughed at me, but I was happy. I was old ; it was 
late for me to begin life anew, but I could still cleanse 
my soul from base thoughts, from malice towards my 
fellows and from murmuring against my Creator. And 
in my remembrances of Nina I found this cleansing. 

" I wanted desperately to look once more at the statue. 
I wandered whole evenings near the house where it was 
and I tried to see the marble bust, but it stood a long 
way from the windows. I spent whole nights in front 
of the house. I knew all the people who lived there, 
how the rooms were arranged, and I made friends with 
a servant. In the summer the lady went away into the 
country. And then I could no longer fight against my 
desire. I thought that if I could see the marble Nina 
once again, I should at once remember everything, to 
the end. And that would be for me ultimate bliss. 
So I made up my mind to do that for which I've been 
sentenced. You know that I didn't succeed. They 
caught me in the hall. And at the trial it came out 
that I'd been in the rooms on pretence of being a lock- 
smith, and that I'd often been seen near the house. . . . 
I was a beggar, I had forced the locks. . . . However, 
the story's ended now, dear sir ! " 


" But we'll make an appeal for you," said I. " They 
will acquit you." 

" But why ? " objected the old man. " No one grieves 
over my sentence, and no one will go bail for me, and 
isn't it just the same where I shall think about Nina 
in a doss-house or in a prison ? " 

I didn't know what to answer, but the old man 
suddenly looked up at me with his strange and faded 
eyes and went on : 

" Only one thing worries me. What if Nina never 
existed, and it was merely my poor mind, weakened by 
alcohol, which invented the whole -story of this love 
whilst I was looking at the little marble head ? " 



' T T is she ! No, it can't be, but yet of course it is ! " 

A said Peter Andreyevitch Basmanof to himself, 

as a lady who had previously attracted his attention 

passed for the fifth or sixth time the little table at 

which he was sitting. 

He no longer doubted that it was Elizavieta. Cer- 
tainly, they had not met for nearly twelve years, and 
no woman's face could remain unchanged during such 
a period. The features, formerly thin and sharply 
defined, had become somewhat fuller ; the glance, 
once confiding as a child's, was now cold and stern, and 
in the whole face there was an expression of self- 
confidence which used not to be there. But were they 
not the same eyes which Basmanof had loved to liken 
to St. Elma's fires, was it not that same oval which by 
its purity of outline alone had often calmed his passion, 
were they not the same tiny ears which he had found 
so sweet to kiss ? Yes, it must be Elizavieta : there 
could not be two women so much alike as much alike 
as the reflections in two adjoining mirrors ! 



Basmanof's mind went quickly over the history of 
his love for Elizavieta. Not for the first time did he 
thus survey it, for of all his memories none was dearer 
or more sacred than this love. The young advocate, 
just stepping forth into life, had met a woman some- 
what older than himself who had loved him with all the 
blindness of a fierce, unreasoning, ecstatical passion. 
Eliza vieta's whole soul had been absorbed by this love, 
and nothing else in the world had mattered to her 
except this one thing to possess her beloved, give 
herself to him, worship him. She had been prepared 
to sacrifice all the conventions of their " set," she had 
begged Basmanof to allow her to leave her husband 
and go to live with him ; and in society not only had 
she not been ashamed of her connection with him 
which, of course, had been talked about but she had, 
as it were, gloried in it. Basmanof had never since 
come across a love so self-forgetful, so ready to sacrifice 
itself, and he could not have doubted that if at any 
time he had demanded of Elizavieta that she should 
kill herself she would have fulfilled his behest with a 
calm submissive rapture. 

How had Basmanof profited by such a love, which 
comes to us only once in life ? He had been afraid of it, 
afraid of its immensity and its strength. He had under- 
stood that where infinite sacrifices are made they are 
necessarily accompanied by great demands. He had 


been afraid to accept this love because it would have 
been necessary to give something in exchange for it, 
and he felt himself spiritually lacking. And he had 
been afraid that his just-blossoming career might be 
checked. . . . Basmanof, like a thief, had stolen half 
a year's love, which could not have been his had he 
been frank and shown his real character from the first, 
and then he had taken advantage of the first trifling 
excuse to " break off the connection." 

Ah, how ashamed he was now to recall their last 
meeting before this took place. Elizavieta, blinded by 
her love for him, could not understand, could not see, 
that her beloved was too low for her to abase herself 
before him, and she had begged him on her knees not 
to forsake her. He remembered how she, sobbing, had 
embraced his feet and let herself be dragged along the 
floor, how in despair she had beaten her head against 
the wall. He had learnt afterwards that his desertion 
had sent Elizavieta nearly out of her mind, that at one 
time she had wished to enter a convent, and that later 
when she became a widow she had gone abroad. Since 
then he had lost all trace of her. 

Was it possible that here at Interlaken he was meet- 
ing her now again, twelve years after their rupture, 
calm, stern, beautiful as ever, with her inexplicable 
fascination for him and her tormentingly-sweet re- 
minders of the past ? Basmanof, sitting at the little 


cafe table, watched the tall lady in the large Paris hat 
as she went by, and his whole being burned feverishly 
with images and sensations of the past, suffusing in a 
moment the memory of his mind and the memory of 
his body. It was she, it was she, Elizavieta, whom he 
had not allowed to love him as fully as she had wished, 
and whom he himself had not dared to love as fully as 
he might, as much as he had wished ! It was she, his 
better self, restored again to him when his life had 
almost passed, she, alive still, the possibility incarnate 
of reviving that which had been, of completing and 
restoring it. 

In spite of his self-possession Basmanof's head was 
in a whirl. He paid the waiter for his ice, got up from 
his seat, and walked out by the path along which the 
tall lady had passed. 


When Basmanof overtook the tall lady he raised his 
hat deferentially and bowed to her. But the lady 
showed no sign of recognition. 

" Is it possible you do not recognise me, Elizavieta 
Vasilievna ? " asked Basmanof, speaking in Russian. 

After some hesitation the lady answered in Russian, 
though with a slight accent. 

" Pardon me, but you've probably made a mistake. 
I am not an acquaintance of yours." 


" Elizavieta Vasilievna ! " exclaimed Basmanof 
deeply hurt by such a reply. " Surely you must recog- 
nise me ! I am Peter Andreyevitch Basmanof." 
. " It's the first time I've heard that name," said the 
lady, " and I don't know you at all." 

For several seconds Basmanof gazed at the lady who 
thus spoke to him, asking himself whether he had not 
made a mistake. But there was such an undoubted 
likeness, he so definitely recognised her as Elizavieta, 
that blocking up the pathway to this lady in the large 
Paris hat, he repeated insistently 

" I recognise you, Elizavieta Vasilievna ! I under- 
stand that you may have reasons for concealing your 
true name. I understand that you may not wish to 
meet your former acquaintances. But you must know 
that it's absolutely necessary for me to speak a few 
words to you. I have gone through too much since we 
separated. I must put myself right with you. I don't 
want you to despise me." 

Basmanof hardly knew himself what he was saying. 
He wanted only one thing that Elizavieta would 
acknowledge that it was she. He was afraid that she 
might go away and not come back, might vanish for 
evermore, and that this meeting might prove to be a 

The lady moved quietly to one side, and said in 
French : 


" Monsieur, laissez-moi passer, s'il vous plait ! Je 
nc vous connais pas." 

She showed no agitation whatever, and at Bas- 
manof ' s words the expression of her face did not change 
in the least. But all the same he could not let her go, 
but followed her. 

" Elizavieta ! " cried he. " Curse me if you will, 
call me the most worthless of men, tell me that you no 
longer wish to know me I will take it all humbly, as 
I ought. But do not pretend that you do not recognise 
me ; that I cannot endure. You dare not, ought not, 
to insult me so." 

" I assure you," the lady interrupted in a more 
severe tone, " that you mistake me for someone else. 
You call me Elizavieta Vasilievna, but that is not my 
name. I am Ekaterina Vladimirovna Sadikov'a, and 
my maiden name was Armand. Surely that is suffi- 
cient evidence for you to allow me to continue my walk, 
as I wish to do ? " 

" But why, then," cried Basmanof, making a last 
attempt, " why have you borne with me so long ? If I 
am an utter stranger to you why didn't you at once 
order me to be silent, or call a policeman ? No one 
behaves as gently as you have done towards a scoundrel 
of the street ! " 

" I see quite clearly," answo^ed the lady, " that you 
are not a street scoundrel, and . t you would not 


allow yourself to take any liberties. You've simply 
made a mistake : my likeness to some lady of your 
acquaintance has led you into an error. That is no 
crime, and I've no occasion whatever to call the police. 
But now everything has been explained good-bye ! " 

Basmanof could insist no longer. He stood aside, 
and the lady walked slowly past him. But the whole 
of the conversation, the tone of the lady's voice, her 
movements, everything about her only accentuated 
his belief that this was Elizavieta. 

Disturbed and agitated, he went back to his room 
at the hotel. Beyond the green meadow, like some 
gigantic phantom, shone the eternal snow of the Yung- 
frau. It seemed near, but was immeasurably far. 
Was it not like to Elizavieta, who had seemed risen 
from the dead, but who had again retreated into the 
far unknown ? 

It was not difficult for Basmanof to discover the 
address of the lady whom he had met. After some 
hesitation he wrote her a letter, in which he said that 
he had no wish to argue about what was evident. He 
had clearly made a mistake in taking an unknown lady 
for an old acquaintance of his, but their short en- 
counter had made a deep impression on him, and he 
begged permission to bow to her when they met, in 
memory of an accidental acquaintance. The letter 
was couched in extremely cautious and respectful 


terms. When on the following day Basmanof met the 
lady who called herself Mme. Sadikova she bowed to 
him first and herself began to speak to him. And so 
their acquaintance began. 


Mme. Sadikova gave no signs of ever having previously 
known Basmanof. Quite the contrary ; she treated 
him as someone whom she had never met before. They 
talked about unimportant matters, connected chiefly 
with life at the watering-place. Mme. Sadikova's 
conversation was interesting and clever, and she 
appeared to be very well read. But when Basmanof 
tried to pass to more intimate, more painful questions 
his companion lightly and deftly evaded them. 

Everything convinced Basmanof that she was 
Elizavieta. He recognised her voice, her favourite 
turns of speech ; recognised that intangible something 
which expresses the individuality of a person but which 
it is difficult to define in words. He could have sworn 
that he was not mistaken. 

Certainly there were slight marks of difference, but 
could not these be explained by the interval of twelve 
years ? It was natural that from Elizavieta's flaming 
passions the experiences of life should have forged a 
steely coldness. It was natural that living abroad for 
many years Elizavieta should have somewhat forgotten 


her native tongue and speak it with an accent. Finally 
it was natural that in her behaviour, in her gestures, 
in her laughter, there should appear new features which 
had not been there before. . . . 

All the same, Basmanof was sometimes seized by 
doubt, and then he began mentally to notice hundreds 
of tiny peculiarities which distinguished Ekaterina 
from Elizavieta. But he only needed to look once more 
into Mme. Sadikova's face, to hear her speak, and all 
his doubts would disperse like a mist. He felt in him- 
self and his soul was aware that this was she whom he 
had once loved. 

Of course he did all he could to unravel the mystery. 
He tried to confuse her by asking unexpected questions; 
she was always on her guard, and she easily escaped out 
of all his snares. He tried to question her acquaint- 
ances ; no one knew anything about her. He even 
went so far as to intercept a letter addressed to her ; 
it proved to be from Paris, and consisted only of im- 
personal French phrases. 

One evening, when the two were together in a 
restaurant, Basmanof could endure the continuous 
strain no longer, and he suddenly exclaimed 

" Why do we keep up this tormenting game ? You 
are Elizavieta I am sure of it. You can't forget how 
you once loved me. And of course you can't forget how 
basely I cast you off. But now I bring you all my soul's 


repentance. I despise myself for my former conduct. 
This is what I propose : take me for the whole of my 
life if you can forgive me. But I say this to Elizavieta, 
I give myself to her, not taany other woman." 

Mme. Sadikova listened in silence to this little speech, 
transgressing as it did the limits of Society small-talk, 
and answered calmly 

" Dear Peter Andreyevitch. If you are speaking to 
me I might answer you, perhaps, but as you warn me 
that you are speaking to Elizavieta there's nothing for 
me to say." 

In the greatest excitement Basmanof got up from 
his seat and asked her : 

" Do you wish to insist that you are not Elizavieta ? 
Well, say so once more to my face without blenching 
and I will go away, I will at once hide myself from your 
eyes, I will vanish out of your life. Then there will be 
no more reason for my living." 

Mme. Sadikova smiled sweetly. 

" Do you wish so much that I were Elizavieta ? " 
asked she. " Very well, I will be Elizavieta." 


Then the second game began, a more cruel one 
perhaps than the first. Mme. Sadikova called herself 
Elizavieta and treated Basmanof as an old acquaint- 
ance. When he spoke of the past she pretended to 


remember the persons and events of which he spoke. 
When he, all trembling, reminded her of her love for 

* , 

him, she, laughing, agreed that she had loved him ; but 
she hinted that in the course of time this love had died 
down, as every flame dies down. 

In order to play her part conscientiously, Mme. 
Sadikova herself would sometimes speak of the happen- 
ings of the past, but she mixed up the dates, remem- 
bered the wrong names, imagined things which had 
never occurred. It was especially tormenting that 
when she spoke of her love for Basmanof she referred 
to it as to a light flirtation, the accidental amusement 
of a lady in society. This seemed to Basmanof an insult 
to sacred things, and almost with a wail he besought 
her to be silent. 

But this was little. Imperceptibly, step by step, 
Mme. Sadikova poisoned all Basmanof 's most holy 
recollections. By her hints she discrowned all the most 
beautiful facts of the past. She gave him to under- 
stand that much of what had appeared to him as 
evidence of her self-forgetful love had been only 
hypocrisy and make-believe. 

" Elizavieta ! " implored Basmanof once of her. 
" Is it possible for me to believe that your passionate 
vows, your sobs, your despair, when you threw your- 
self unconscious on the floor that all this was feigned ? 


The most talented dramatic actress could not act so 
well. You are defaming yourself." 

Mme. Sadikova, answering to the name of Elizavieta, 
as she had been doing for some time, said with a smile 

" How can one distinguish where acting ends and 
sincerity begins ? I wanted at that time to feel strongly 
and so I allowed myself to pretend to be despairing 
and out of my senses. If in your place had been not 
you but some other, I should have acted just the same. 
And yet at that very moment it would have cost me 
nothing to overcome myself and not sob at all. Aren't 
we all like that in life actors we don't so much live 
as act the part of living ? " 

" That's not true," exclaimed Basmanof. " You 
say this because you do not know how Elizavieta loved. 
She would never have spoken so. You are only playing 
her part. It's evident you are not she you are 

Mme. Sadikova laughed, and then said in a different 

" Just as you like, Peter Andreyevitch. I only 
played the part to please you. If you wish it I will 
become myself again, Ekaterina Vladimirovna Sadi- 

" How can I know where you are real ? " hissed 
Basmanof through his teeth. 

He began to feel that he was going out of his mind. 


Fiction and reality for him had become confused. For 
some minutes he doubted who he was himself. 

In the meantime Mme. Sadikova got up and proposed 
a walk and she again began to speak to him as Eliza- 


The days went by. The season at Interlaken came 
to an end. 

Basmanof, obsessed by his connection with this 
mysterious acquaintance of his, began to forget every- 
thing else ; forgot why he had come to Interlaken, 
forget all his business, answered no letters from home, 
lived a sort of senseless life. Like a maniac, he thought 
only of one thing : how to guess the secret of Elizavieta 

Was he in love with this woman ? he could not have 
said. She drew him to herself as to an abyss, as to a 
horror, to a place of destruction. Months and years 
might go by and he would be glad to go on with this 
duel of mind and ready wit, this struggle of two minds, 
one of which sought to preserve her secret and the other 
strove to tear it from her. 

But suddenly, early in October, Mme. Sadikova left 
Interlaken. She went away, neither saying good-bye 
to Basmanof nor warning him of her departure. On 
the following day, however, he received a letter from 
her, nested from Berne. 


" I will not deprive you of the satisfaction of guessing 
who I am," wrote Mme. Sadikova. " I leave the solu- 
tion of this problem to your sharp wit. But if you are 
tired of guessing, and would like to have the simplest 
solution, I will tell it you. Suppose that I was really a 
complete stranger to you. Learning from your own 
agitated accounts, how cruelly you had once treated 
a certain Elizavieta, I determined to avenge her. I 
think I have attained my object ; my revenge has been 
accomplished : you will never forget these weeks of 
torture at Interlaken. And for whom I took this 
vengeance, for myself or for another, is it not all the 
same in the long run ? Good-bye, you will never see me 
again. Eliza vieta-Ekaterina. 


I HAVE loved mirrors from my very earliest years. 
As an infant I wept and trembled as I looked into 
their transparently truthful depths. My favourite 
game as a child was to walk up and down the room or 
the garden, holding a mirror in front of me, gazing into 
its abyss, walking over the edge at every step, and 
breathless with giddiness and terror. Even as a girl 
I began to put mirrors all over my room, large and 
small ones, true and slightly distorted ones, some 
precise and others a little dull. I got into the habit of 
spending whole hours, whole days, in the midst of inter- 
crossing worlds which ran one into the other, trembled, 
vanished, and then reappeared again. It became a 
singular passion of mine to give my body to these 
soundless distances, these echoless perspectives, these 
separate universes cutting across our own and existing, 
despite our consciousness, in the same place and at the 
same time with it . This protracted actuality, separated 
from us by the smooth surface of glass, drew me to- 
wards itself by a kind of intangible touch, dragged me 
forward, as to an abyss, a mystery. 



I was drawn towards the apparition which always 
rose up before me when I came near a mirror and 
which strangely doubled my being. I strove to guess 
how this other woman was differentiated from myself, 
how it was possible that my right hand should be her 
left, and that all the fingers of this hand should change 
places, though certainly on one of them was my 
wedding-ring. My thoughts were confused when I 
attempted to probe this enigma, to solve it. In this 
world, where everybody could be touched, where voices 
were heard I lived, actually ; in thai reflected world, 
which it was only possible to contemplate, was she, 
phantasmally. She was almost as myself and yet not 
at all myself ; she repeated all my movements, but not 
one of these movements exactly coincided with those 
I made. She, that other, knew something I could not 
divine, she held a secret eternally hidden from my 

But I noticed that each mirror had its own separate 
and special world. Put two mirrors in the very same 
place, one after the other, and there will arise two 
different universes. And in different mirrors there rose 
up before me different apparitions, all of them like me 
but never exactly like one another. In my small hand- 
mirror lived a naive little girl with clear eyes, reminding 
me of my early youth. In my circular boudoir mirror 
was hidden a woman who knew all the diverse sweet- 


ness of caresses, shameless, free, beautiful, daring. In 
the oblong mirrors of the wardrobe door there always 
appeared a stern figure, imperious, cold, inexorable. I 
knew still other doubles of myself in my dressing- 
glass, in my folding gold-framed triptych, in the hang- 
ing mirror in the oaken frame, in the little neck mirror, 
and in many other mirrors which I treasured. To all 
the beings hiding themselves in these mirrors I gave 
the possibility and pretext to develop. According to 
the strange conditions of their world they must take the 
form of the person who stands before the glass but 
under this borrowed exterior they preserve their own 
personal characteristics. 

There were some worlds of mirrors which I loved ; 
others which I hated. In some of them I loved to walk 
up and down for whole hours, losing myself in their 
attractive expanse. Others I fled from. In my secret 
heart I did not love all my doubles. I knew that they 
were all hostile toward me, if only for the fact .that they 
were forced to clothe themselves in my hated likeness. 
But some of these mirror women I pitied. I forgave 
their hate and felt almost friendly to them. There were 
some whom I despised, and I loved to laugh at their 
powerless fury ; there were some whom I mocked by 
my own independence and tortured by my power over 
them. There were others, on the other hand, of whom 
I was afraid, who were too strong for me and who dared 


in their turn to mock at me, to command me. I 
hastened to get rid of the mirrors where these women 
lived, I would not look in them, I hid them, gave them 
away, even broke some in pieces. But every time I 
destroyed a mirror I wept for whole days after, con- 
scious of the fact that I had broken to pieces a distinct 
universe. And reproachful faces stared at me from the 
broken fragments of the world I had destroyed. 

The mirror with which my fate was to become linked 
I bought one autumn at a sale of some sort. It was a 
large pier-glass, swinging on screws. I was struck by 
the unusual clarity of its reflection. The phantasmal 
actuality in it was changed by the slightest inclination 
of the glass, but it was independent and vital to the 
edges. When I examined this pier-glass at the sale the 
woman who reflected me in it looked me in the eyes 
with a kind of haughty challenge. I did not wish to 
give in to her, to show that she had frightened me, so 
I bought the glass and ordered it to be placed in my 
boudoir. As soon as I was alone in the room, I im- 
mediately went up to the new mirror and fixed my eyes 
upon my rival. But she did the same to me, and stand- 
ing opposite one another we began to transfix each 
other with our glance as if we had been snakes. In the 
pupils of her eyes was my reflection, in mine, hers. My 
heart sank and my head swam from her intent gaze. 
But at length by an effort of will I tore my eyes away 


from those other eyes, tipped the mirror with my foot 
so that it began to swing, rocking the image of my rival 
pitifully to and fro, and went out of the room. 

From that hour our strife began. In the evening of 
the first day of our meeting I did not dare to go near 
the new pier-glass ; I went to the theatre with my 
husband, laughed exaggeratedly, and was apparently 
light-hearted. On the morrow, in the clear light of a 
September day I went boldly into my boudoir alone 
and designedly sat down directly in front of the 
mirror. At the same moment, she, the other woman, 
also came in at the door to meet me, crossed the room, 
and then she too sat down opposite me. Our eyes met. 
In hers I read hatred towards myself ; in mine she read 
hatred towards her. Our second duel began, a duel of 
eyes two unyielding glances, commanding, threaten- 
ing, Hypnotising. Each of us strove to conquer the 
other's will, to break down her resistance, to force her 
to submit to another's desire. It would have been a 
painful scene for an onlooker to witness ; two women 
sitting opposite each other without moving, joined 
together by the magnetic attraction of each other's 
gaze, and almost losing consciousness under the psy- 
chical strain. . . . Suddenly someone called me. The 
infatuation vanished. I got up and left the room. 

After this our duels were renewed every day. I 
realised that this adventuress had purposely forced 


herself into my home to destroy me and take my place 
in this world. But I had not sufficient strength to deny 
myself this struggle. In this rivalry there was a kind 
of secret intoxication. The very possibility of defeat 
had hidden in it a sort of sweet seduction. Sometimes 
I forced myself for whole days to keep away from the 
pier-glass ; I occupied myself with business, with 
amusements, but in the depths of my soul was always 
hidden the memory of the rival who in patience and 
self-reliance awaited my return. I would go back to her 
and she would step forth in front of me, more triumph- 
antly than ever, piercing me with her victorious gaze 
and fixing me in my place before her. My heart would 
stop beating, and I with a powerless fury would feel 
myself under the authority of this gaze. 

So the days and weeks went by ; our struggle con- 
tinued, but the preponderance showed itself more and 
more definitely to be on the side of my rival. And sud- 
denly one day I realised that my will was in subjection 
to her will, that she was already stronger than I. I was 
overcome with terror. My first impulse was to flee 
from my home and go to another town, but I saw at 
once that this would be useless. I should, all the same, 
be overcome by the attractive force of this hostile will 
and be obliged to return to this room, to this mirror. 
Then there came a second thought to shatter the 
mirror, reduce my enemy to nothingness ; but to 


conquer her by brutal strength would mean that I 
acknowledged her superiority over myself : this would 
be humiliating. I preferred to remain and continue 
this struggle to the end, even though I were threatened 
with defeat. 

Soon there could be no doubt that my rival would 
triumph. At every meeting there was concentrated in 
her gaze still greater and greater power over me. Little 
by little I lost the possibility of letting a day pass 
without once going to my mirror. She ordered me to 
spend several hours daily in front of her. She directed 
my will as a hypnotist directs the will of a sleepwalker. 
She arranged my life, as a mistress arranges the life of 
a slave. I began to fulfil her demands, I became an 
automaton to her wordless crders. I knew that deliber- 
ately, cautiously, she would lead me by an unavoid- 
able path to destruction, and I already made no resist- 
ance. I divined her secret plan to cast me into the 
mirror world and to come forth herself into our world 
but I had no strength to hinder her. My husband and 
my relatives seeing me spend whole hours, whole days 
and nights in front of my mirror, thought me demented 
and wanted to cure me. But I dared not reveal the 
truth to them, I was forbidden to tell them all the 
dreadful truth, all the horror, towards which I was 

One of the December days before the holidays 


turned out to be the day of my destruction. I re- 
member everything clearly, precisely, circumstantially. 
Nothing in my remembrance is confused. As usual, I 
went into my boudoir early, at the first beginnings of 
the winter dawn twilight. I placed a comfortable arm- 
chair without a back in front of the mirror, sat down 
and gave myself up to her. Without any delay she 
appeared in answer to my summons, she too placed an 
armchair for herself, she too sat down and began to 
gaze at me. A dark foreboding oppressed my soul, but 
I was powerless to turn my face.. away, and I was forced 
to take to myself the insolent gaze of my rival. The 
hours went by, the shadows began to fall. Neither of 
us lighted a lamp. The glass of the mirror glimmered 
faintly in the darkness. The reflections had become 
scarcely visible, but the self-reliant eyes gazed with 
their former strength. I felt neither terror nor ill-will, 
as on other days, but simply an intolerable anguish 
and a bitter consciousness that I was in the power of 
another. Time swam away and on its tide I also swam 
into infinity, into a black expanse of powerlessness and 
lack of will. 

Suddenly she, that other, the reflected woman, got 
up from her chair. I trembled all over at this insult. 
But something invincible, something forcing me from 
within compelled me also to stand up. The woman 
in the mirror took a step forward. I did the same. The 


woman in the mirror stretched forth her arms. I did 
so too. Looking straight at me with hypnotising and 
commanding eyes, she moved forward and I advanced 
to meet her. And it was strange with all the horror 
of my position, with all my hate towards my rival, 
there fluttered somewhere in the depths of my soul a 
painful consolation, a secret joy to enter at last into 
that mysterious world into which I had gazed from my 
childhood and which up till now had remained in- 
accessible to me. At moments I hardly knew which 
of us was drawing the other towards herself, she me or 
I her, whether she was eager to occupy my place or 
whether I had devised all this struggle in order to 
displace her. 

But when, moving forward, my hands touched hers 
on the glass I turned quite pale with repugnance. And 
she took my hand by force and drew me still nearer to 
herself. My hands were plunged into the mirror as 
into burning-icy water. The cold of the glass pene- 
trated into my body with a horrible pain, as if all the 
atoms of my being had changed their mutual relation- 
ship. In another moment my face had touched the 
face of my rival, I saw her eyes right in front of my 
own, I was transfused into her with a monstrous kiss. 
Everything vanished from me in a torment of suffering 
unlike any other and when I came to my senses after 
this swoon I still saw in front of me my own boudoir 


on which I gazed from out of the mirror. My rival stood 
before me and burst into laughter. And I oh the 
cruelty of it ! I who was dying with humiliation and 
torture was obliged to laugh too, to repeat all her 
grimaces in a triumphant joyful laugh. I had not yet 
succeeded in considering my position when my rival 
suddenly turned round, walked towards the door, 
vanished from my sight, and I at once fell into torpor, 
into non-existence. 

Then my life as a reflection began. It was a strange, 
half-conscious but mysteriously sweet life. There were 
many of us in this mirror, dark in soul, and slumbering 
of consciousness. We could not speak to one another, 
but we felt each other's proximity and loved one an- 
other. We could see nothing, we heard nothing clearly, 
and our existence was like the enfeeblement that comes 
from being unable to breathe. Only when a being from 
the world of men approached the mirror, we, suddenly 
taking up his form, could look forth into the world, 
could distinguish voices, and breathe a full breath. I 
think that the life of the dead is like that a dim con- 
sciousness of one's ego, a confused memory of the past 
and an oppressive desire to be incarnated anew even if 
only for a moment, to see, to hear, to speak. . . . And 
each of us cherished and concealed a secret dream to 
free one's self, to find for one's self a new body, to go 
out into the world of constancy and steadfastness. 


During the first days I felt myself absolutely un- 
happy in my new position. I still knew nothing, under- 
stood nothing. I took the form of my rival submissively 
and unthinkingly when she came near the mirror and 
began to jeer at me. And she did this fairly often. It 
afforded her great delight to flaunt her vitality before 
me, her reality. She would sit down and force me also 
to sit down, stand up and exult as she saw me stand, 
wave her arms about, dance, force me to repeat her 
movements, and burst out laughing and continue to 
laugh so that I should have to laugh too. She would 
shriek insulting words in my face and I could make no 
answer to them. She would threaten me with her fist 
and mock at my forced repetition of the gesture. She 
would turn her back on me and I, losing sight, losing 
features, would become conscious of the shame of the 
half-existence left to me. . . . And then suddenly, 
with one blow she would whirl the mirror round on its 
axle and with the oscillation throw me completely into 

Little by little, however, the insults and humiliations 
awoke a consciousness in me. I realised that my rival 
was now living my life, wearing my dresses, being con- 
sidered as my husband's wife, and occupying my place 
in the world. Then there grew up in my soul a feeling 
of hate and a thirst for vengeance, like two fiery flowers. 
I began bitterly to curse myself for having, by my 


weakness or my criminal curiosity, allowed her to 
conquer me. I arrived at the conviction that this 
adventuress would never have triumphed over me if 
I myself had not aided her in her wiles. And so, as I 
became more familiar with some of the conditions of 
my new existence, I resolved to continue with her the 
same fight which she had carried on with me. If she, 
a shadow, could occupy the place of a real woman, was 
it possible that I, a human being, and only temporarily 
a shadow, should not be stronger than a phantom ? 

I began from a very long way off. At first I pre- 
tended that the mockery of my rival tormented me 
quite unbearably. I purposely afforded her all the 
satisfaction of victory. I provoked in her the secret 
instinct of the executioner throwing himself upon his 
helpless victim. She gave herself up to this bait. She 
was attracted by this game with me. She put forth the 
wings of her imagination and thought out new trials for 
me. She invented thousands of wiles to show me over 
and over again that I was only a reflection, that I 
had no life of my own. Sometimes she played on the 
piano in front of me, torturing me by the soundlessness 
of my world. Sometimes, seated before the mirror she 
would drink in tiny sips my favourite liqueurs, com- 
pelling me only to pretend that I also was drinking 
them. Sometimes, at length, she would bring into my 
boudoir people whom I hated, and before my face she 


would allow them to kiss her body, letting them think 
that they were kissing me. And afterwards when we 
were alone she would burst into a malicious and trium- 
phant laugh. But this laugh did not wound me at all ; 
there was sweetness in its keenness : my expectation 
of revenge ! 

Unnoticeably, in the hours of her insults to me, I 
would accustom my rival to look me in the eyes and I 
would gradually overpower her gaze. Soon at my will 
I could already force her to raise and lower her eyelids 
and make this and that movement of the face. I had 
already begun to triumph though I hid my feeling 
under a mask of suffering. Strength of soul grew up 
within me and I began to dare to lay commands upon 
my enemy : To-day you shall do so-and-so, to-day you 
shall go to such-and-such a place, to-morrow you shall 
come to me at such a time. And she would fulfil them. 
I entangled her soul in the nets of my desires woven 
together with a strong thread in which I held her soul, 
and I secretly- rejoiced when I noticed my success. 
When one day, in the hour of her laughter, she suddenly 
caught on my lips a victorious smile which I was un- 
able to hide, it was already too late. She rushed out of 
the room in a fury, but as I fell into the sleep of my 
nonentity I knew that she would return, knew that she 
would submit to me. And a rapture of victory gushed 
out over my involuntary lack of strength, piercing 


with a rainbow shaft of light the gloom of my seeming 

She did return ! She came up to me in anger and 
terror, shrieked to me, threatened me. But I was 
commanding her to do it. And she was obliged to 
submit. Then began the game of a cat with a mouse. 
At any time I could have cast her back into the depths 
of the glass and come forth myself again into sounding 
and hard actuality. But I delayed to do this. It was 
sweet to me to indulge in non-existence sometimes. It 
was sweet to me to intoxicate myself with the possi- 
bility. At last (this is strange, is it not ?) there sud- 
denly was aroused in me a pity for my rival, for my 
enemy, for my executioner. Everything in her was 
something of my own, and it was dreadful for me to 
drag her forth from the realities of life and turn her 
into a phantom. I hesitated and dare not do it, I put 
it off from day to day, I did not know myself what I 
wanted and what I dreaded. 

And suddenly on a clear spring day men came into 
the boudoir with planks and axes. There was no life 
in me, I lay in the voluptuousness of torpor, but with- 
out seeing them I knew they were there. The men 
began to busy themselves near the mirror which was 
my universe. And one after another the souls who lived 
in it with me were awakened and took transparent 
flesh in the form of reflections. A dreadful uneasiness 


agitated my slumbering soul. With a presentiment of 
horror, a presentiment even of irretrievable ruin, I 
gathered together all the might of my will. What 
efforts it cost me to struggle against the lassitude of 
half-existence! So living people sometimes struggle 
with a nightmare, tearing themselves from its suffo- 
cating bands towards actuality. 

I concentrated all the force of my suggestion into a 
summons, directed towards her, towards my rival 
" Come hither ! " I hypnotised her, magnetised her 
with all the tension of my half-slumbering will. There 
was little time. The mirror had already begun to 
swing. They were already preparing to nail it up in a 
wooden coffin, to take it away : whither I knew not. 
And with an almost mortal effort I called again and 
again, " Come ! " And I suddenly began to feel that 
I was coming to life. She, my enemy, opened the door, 
and came to meet me, pale, half-dead, in answer to my 
call, with faltering steps as men go to punishment. I 
fastened my eyes on hers, bound up my gaze with hers, 
and when I had done this I knew already that I had 
gained the victory. 

I at once compelled her to send the men out of the 
room. She submitted without even making an attempt 
to oppose me. We were alone together once more. To 
delay was no longer possible. And I could not bring 
myself to forgive her craftiness. In her place, in my 


time, I should have acted otherwise. Now I ordered 
her, without pity, to come to meet me. A moan of 
torture opened her lips, her eyes widened as before a 
phantom, but she came, trembling, falling she came. 
I also went forward to meet her, lips curving triumph- 
antly, eyes wide open with joy, swaying in an intoxi- 
cating rapture. Again our hands touched each other's, 
again our lips came near together, and we fell each 
into the other, burning with the indescribable pain of 
bodily exchange. In another moment I was already 
in front of the mirror, my breast filled itself with air, 
I cried out loudly and victoriously and fell just here, 
in front of the pier-glass, prone from exhaustion. 

My husband and the servants ran towards me. I 
could only tell them to fulfil my previous orders and 
take the mirror away, out of the house, at once. That 
was wisely thought, wasn't it ? You see she, that 
other, might have profited by my weakness in the first 
minutes of my return to life, and by a desperate assault 
might have tried to wrest the victory from my hands. 
Sending the mirror out of the house, I could ensure my 
own quietude for a long time, as long as I liked, and 
my rival had earned such a punishment for her cun- 
ning. I defeated her with her own tools, with the 
blade which she herself had raised against me. 

After having given this order I lost consciousness. 
They laid me on my bed. A doctor was called in. I 


was treated as suffering from a nervous fever. For a 
long while my relatives had thought me ill, and not 
normal. In the first outburst of exultation I told them 
all that had happened to me. My stories only increased 
their suspicions. They sent me to a home for the 
mentally afflicted, and I am there now. All my being, 
I agree, is profoundly shaken. But I do not want to 
stay here. I am eager to return to the joys of life, to 
all the countless pleasures which are accessible to a 
living human being. I have been deprived of them too 

Besides shall I say it ? there is one thing which I 
am bound to do as soon as possible. I ought to have 
no doubt that I am this I. But all the same, whenever 
I begin to think of her who is imprisoned in my mirror 
I begin to be seized by a strange hesitation. What if 
the real I is there ? Then I myself who think this, 
I who write this, I am a shadow, I am a phantom, 
I am a reflection. In me are only the poured forth 
remembrances, thoughts and feelings of that other, 
the real person. And, in reality, I am thrown into the 
depths of the mirror in nonentity, I am pining, ex- 
hausted, dying. I know, I almost know that this is 
not true. But in order to disperse the last clouds of 
doubt, I ought again once more, for the last time, to 
see that mirror. I must look into it once more to be 
convinced, that there is the impostor, my enemy, 


she who played my part for some months. I shall ae 
this and all the confusion of my soul will pass away, 
and I shall again be free from care bright, happy. 
Where is this mirror ? Where shall I find it ? I must, 
I must once more look into its depths ! . . . 



/COLONEL R. told me this story. We were staying 
V^> together at the estate of our mutual relatives, 
the M's. It was Christmas-time, and in the drawing- 
room one evening the talk turned on ghosts. The 
Colonel took no part in the conversation, but when we 
were alone together we slept in the same room he 
told me the following story. 

This happened five-and-twenty years ago, and more : 
it was in the middle of the seventies. I had only just 
got my commission. Our regiment was stationed at *, 
a small provincial town in the government of X. We 
spent our time as officers usually do : we drank, played 
cards, and paid attentions to women. 

Among the people living in the neighbourhood, one 

stood out above the rest, Mme. C Elena Grigori- 

evna. Strictly speaking, she did not belong to the 
society there, for until lately she had always lived at 
Petersburg. But being left a widow a year previously 
she had settled down to live on her country estate, 



about ten versts from the town. She was somewhat 
over thirty years of age, but in her eyes, almost un- 
naturally large, there was something childlike, which 
gave her an inexplicable charm. All our officers were 
attracted by her ; but I fell in love with her, as only 
twenty can fall in love. 

The commander of our company was a relative of 
Elena Grigorievna, and we obtained access to her 
house. She had become somewhat tired of being a 
recluse, and liked to have visits from young folks, 
though she lived almost alone. We sometimes went 
to dinner, and spent whole evenings there. But she 
behaved with so much tact and goodness that no one 
could boast of the slightest intimacy with her. Even 
malicious provincial tongues could bring no gossip 
against her. 

I was sick of love for her. What tortured me more 
than all was the impossibility of frankly confessing my 
love. I would have done anything in the world just to 
fall on my knees before Elena Grigorievna and say 
aloud to her : "I love you." Youth is a little like 
intoxication. For the sake of having half an hour 
alone with her whom I loved, I resolved on a desperate 
measure. There was much snow that winter. In the 
Christmas holidays there was not a day but the wind 
raised the dry snow from the ground into the air in 
whirling eddies. I chose an evening when the weather 


was particularly bad, ordered my horse to be saddled, 
and set out over the fields. 

I don't know how it was I didn't perish by the way. 
Everywhere the snow was whirling and the air was so 
thick with it that at two paces from me there stood, as 
it were, grey walls of snow. On the road the snow was 
almost up to one's knees. Twenty times I lost my way. 
Twenty times my horse refused to go further. I had a 
flask of cognac with me, and but for it I should have 
frozen. It took me just on three hours to travel the 
ten versts. 

By some sort of miracle I arrived at the house. It 
was already late, and I hardly succeeded in knocking 
up the servants. When the watchman recognised me 
he exclaimed in wonder. I was all over snow, covered 
with ice, and looked like a Christmas mummer. Of 
course I had prepared a story to account for my 
appearance. My calculations were hot at fault. Elena 
Grigorievna was obliged to receive me and she ordered 
a room to be prepared for me to stay the night. 

In half an hour's time I was seated in the dining- 
room, alone with her. She pressed me to have supper, 
wine, tea. The logs crackled on the open fire, the light 
of a hanging-lamp enclosed us in a circle which to me 
seemed magical. I felt not the slightest tiredness and 
was more in love than ever. 

I was young, handsome, and certainly no fool. I had 


every right to the notice of a woman. But Elena 
Grigorievna, with unusual dexterity, evaded all talk of 
love. She compelled me to talk to her exactly as if we 
had been at a party in the midst of many other people. 
She laughed at my witticisms, but pretended not to 
understand any of my hints. 

In spite of this, a special kind of intimacy sprang up 
between us, allowing us to speak more openly. And at 
length, knowing that it was nearly time to say good- 
night, I made up my mind. My consciousness, as it 
were, reminded me that such a suitable occasion would 
not repeat itself. " If you don't take advantage of to- 
day," said I to myself, " you have only yourself to 
blame." By a great effort of will, I suddenly broke off 
the conversation in the middle of a word, and in a 
moment, somewhat incoherently and awkwardly, I 
said out all that had been hidden in my soul. 

" Why are we pretending, Elena Grigorievna ? 
You know very well why I came to-day. I came to 
tell you that I love you. And now I say it to you. I 
cannot but love you and I want you to love me. 
Drive me away and I will humbly depart. If you 
don't tell me to go I shall take it as a sign that you love 
me. I don't want anything in between. I want either 
your anger or your love." 

The childlike eyes of Elena Grigorievna became cold. 
They looked like crystal. I read such a clear answer 


in her countenance that I got up without another word 
and wanted to go off straight away. But she stopped 

" That's enough ! Where are you going ? Don't 
behave like a little boy. Sit down." 

She made me sit down near her and began to speak 
to me as if she had been an elder sister talking to a way- 
ward child. 

" You are too young yet, and love is something new 
to you. If another woman were in my place you would 
fall in love with her. In a month's time you would begin 
to love a third. But there is another kind of love 
which drains the depths of the soul. Such a love I had 
for Sergey, my husband, who is dead. I have given to 
him all I can ever feel. However much you may speak 
to me of love, I shall hear you no more than if I were 
dead. You must understand that I have no longer 
any capacity to attach any meaning to such words. 
It's just as if you spoke to someone who could not hear 
you. Reconcile yourself to this. You can no more be 
offended than if you were unable to make a dead 
woman love you." 

Elena Grigorievna spoke with a slight smile. This 
appeared to me to be almost insulting. I imagined that 
she was laughing at me, in thus putting forward her 
own love for her dead husband. I felt myself grow pale. 
I remember the tears springing to my eyes. 


My agitation was not unobserved by Elena Grigori- 
evna. I saw the expression of her cold eyes begin to 
change. She understood that I was suffering. Re- 
straining me with her hand, as she saw I wanted to get 
up without replying, she drew her chair nearer mine. 
I felt her breath on my face. Then lowering her voice, 
although we were alone in the room, she said to me, 
with a real frankness and tender intimacy : 

" Forgive me, if I've offended you. Perhaps I am 
mistaken about your feeling, and it's more serious than 
I thought. So I will tell you the whole truth. Listen. 
My love for Sergey is not dead, but living. I love him, 
not for the past, but in the present. I am not separated 
from him. I take your confession to me seriously ; 
take mine in the same way. From the very day of his 
death, Sergey began to show himself to me, invisibly 
but clearly. I am conscious of his nearness, I feel his 
breath, I hear his caressing whisper. I answer him 
and I have quiet talks with him. At times he almost 
openly kisses me, on my hair, my cheeks, my lips. At 
times I see his reflection dimly in the half-light, in a 
mirror. As soon as I am alone, he at once shows him- 
self to me. I am accustomed to this life with a shadow. 
I go on loving Sergey in this other form of his, just as 
passionately and tenderly as I loved him before. I 
want no other love. And I will not break faith with 
the man who has not left me, even though he has passed 


beyond the bounds of this life. If you tell me that I 
rave, that I have an hallucination, I shall answer that 
it makes no difference to me what you think. I am 
happy in my love, why should I refuse my happiness ? 
Let me be happy." 

Elena Grigorievna spoke this long speech of hers 
gently, without raising her voice, and with deep con- 
viction. I was so impressed by her earnestness that I 
could find no answer. I looked at her with a certain 
awe and pity, as at someone whom grief had crazed. 
But she had become the hostess again and spoke now 
in another tone, as if all she had said previously might 
have been a joke : 

" Well, it's time for us to go to bed. Matthew 
will show you your bedroom." 

Matthew was an old servant of the house. I mechan- 
ically kissed the hand she held out to me. And in 
another minute Matthew was asking me, in a lugubrious 
voice, to follow him. He led me to the other side of 
the house, showed me the bed which had been prepared 
for me, wished me good night, and left me. 

Only then did I recover myself a little. And, isn't it 
strange, my first feeling was that of shame? I felt 
ashamed at having played such an unenviable role. I 
felt ashamed to think that though I had been alone for 
two hours with a young woman, in an almost empty 
house, I hadn't even got so far as to kiss her Kps. At 


that moment I felt more malice than love towards 
Elena Grigorievna and a wish to revenge myself upon 
her. I had ceased to think that her mind might be un- 
hinged, I thought she had been making fun of me. 

Sitting down on my bed, I began to think matters 
over. I was familiar with the house. I knew that I 
was in the dead Sergey Dmitrievitch's study. The 
room next was his bedroom, where everything was left 
exactly as in his lifetime. On the wall in front of me 
hung his portrait in oils. He was in a black coat and 
was wearing the ribbon of the French Order of the 
Legion of Honour, which he had received I don't 
know how or why in the time of the Second Empire. 
And by some sort of strange connection of ideas, it was 
this ribbon specially which gave me the idea of the 
strangest, wildest plan. 

My face was not unlike that of the dead Sergey 
Dmitrievitch. Of course he was older than I. But we 
both wore a moustache and did our hair alike. Only 
his hair was grey. I went into his bedroom. The 
wardrobe was unlocked. I looked for the black coat 
of the portrait and put it on. I found the ribbon of the 
Order. I powdered my hair and my moustache. In a 
word, I dressed myself up as the dead man. 

Probably if my design had been successful I should 
be ashamed to tell you about it. I confess that what 
I planned was much worse than a simple joke. It 


would have been absolutely unpardonable had I not 
been so young. But I received the due reward of my 

Having finished the change of my attire, I directed 
my steps towards Elena Grigorievna's bedroom. Have 
you ever chanced to creep along at night in a sleeping 
house ? How distinct is every rustle, how terribly loud 
is the creak of every floor-board in the silence ! Several 
times it seemed to me that I should arouse all the 
servants. ' 

At length I gained the wished-for door. My heart 
beat. I turned the handle. The door opened noise- 
lessly. I went in. The room was lighted by a lamp, 
which was burning brightly. Elena Grigorievna had 
not yet gone to bed. She was seated in a large arm- 
chair in her dressing-gown, in front of a table, deep in 
thought, in remembrance. She had not heard me 
come in. 

I stood for some minutes in the half-shadow, not 
daring to take a step forward. Suddenly, Elena 
Grigorievna, becoming conscious of my presence, or 
hearing some sort of noise, turned her head. She saw 
me and began to tremble. My stratagem had succeeded 
better than I might have expected. She took me for 
her dead husband. Getting up from the armchair with 
a faint cry she stretched out her arms to me. I heard 
her voice of joy : 


" Sergey ! It is you ! At last ! " 

And then, all trembling with agitation, she sank 
down again, seemingly unconscious, into her chair. 

Not fully aware of what I wanted to do, I ran to- 
wards her. But the instant I came close to the arm- 
chair I saw before me the form of another man. This 
was so unexpected that I stood still, as if the rigour of 
death had overtaken me. Afterwards I reflected that 
a large mirror must have stood there. This other man 
was a perfect replica of myself. He too wore a black 
coat ; on his breast he too wore the ribbon of the 
Legion of Honour. And in a moment I understood 
that this was he whose form I had stolen, he who had 
come from beyond the grave to protect his wife. A 
sharp terror ran through all my limbs. 

For several seconds we stood facing one another by 
the chair in which lay unconscious the woman for 
whom we were striving. I was unable to make the 
slightest movement. And he, this phantom, quietly 
raised his hand and made a threatening gesture towards 

I took part afterwards in the Turkish War. I have 
looked on death and have seen all that would be 
counted terrible. But I have never again experienced 
such horror as then overcame me. This threat from 
the other world stopped the beating of my heart and 
the flow of blood in my veins. For a moment I almost 


became a corpse myself. Then without another glance, 
I rushed to the door. 

Holding on by the walls; staggering along, not caring 
how loudly my steps resounded, I reached my own 
room. I had not sufficient courage to look at the 
portrait hanging on the wall. I threw myself flat on 
the bed, and a sort of black stupor held me fast there. 

I wakened at dawn. I was still wearing the same 
false attire. In an agony of shame I took it off and 
hung it up in its place. Dressing myself in my own 
uniform, I went to^find Matthew, and told him I must 
leave at once. He was evidently not in the least sur- 
prised. I asked the housemaid Glasha if her mistress 
were still asleep, and got the answer that sh6 was sleep- 
ing peacefully. This cheered me. I begged her to say 
that I apologised for leaving without saying good-bye, 
and galloped off. 

A few days later I went with some friends to visit 
Elena Grigorievna. She received me with her usual 
courtesy. Not by a single hint did she remind me of 
that night. And to this day, it is a mystery to me ; 
did she or did she not understand what happened ? 


From the life of "one of the least of these." 

AS soon as Anna Nikolaevna had finished school a 
-^JL place was found for her as saleswoman in the 
stationery shop " Bemol." l Why the shop was called 
by this name would be difficult to say ; probably music 
had once been sold there. It was situated in a turning 
off one of the boulevards, had few customers, and Anna 
Nikolaevna used to spend whole days almost alone. 
Her only assistant, the boy Fedka, lay down to sleep 
after morning tea, woke up when it was time to run to 
the cookshop for dinner, and on his return slept again. 
In the evening the proprietor, an old German woman, 
Carolina Gustavovna, came in for half an hour, col- 
lected the takings, and reproached Anna Nikolaevna 
for her inability to attract customers. Anna Nikolaevna 
was dreadfully afraid of her and listened to her without 
daring to utter a word. The shop was closed at nine ; 
Anna Nikolaevna went home to her aunt, drank weak 
tea with stale biscuits, and went at once to bed. 

1 Russian shops are often given fantastic names which are printed 
above the windows instead of the names of the owners. 


At first Anna Nikolaevna thought she could find 
distraction in reading. She got as many novels and 
old magazines as she could, and read them conscien- 
tiously through page by page. But she mixed up the 
names of the heroes in the novels, and she could never 
understand why they wrote about the various imag- 
inary Jeans and Blanches, and why they described 
beautiful mornings, all of them exactly like one 
another. Reading was for her labour and not relaxa- 
tion, so she gave up books. Young men did not un- 
duly pester her with their attentions, for they did not 
find her interesting. If one of the customers stayed 
too long talking amiabilities to her, she went away 
into the little room behind the shop and sent Fedka out. 
If any one tried to speak to her on her way home, she 
would say no word, but either hasten her steps or just 
run as fast as she could to her own door. She had no 
friends, she did not keep up a correspondence with any 
of her schoolfellows, she only spoke to her aunt about 
two words a day. And in this way the weeks and 
months went by. 

Then Anna Nikolaevna began to make friends with 
the world which lay around her the world of paper, 
envelopes, postcards, pencils, pens, the world of 
pictures, pictures in sets, pictures in relief, pictures for 
cutting out. This world was to her more compre- 
hensible than that of books and was more friendly to 


her than the world of people. She soon learned to 
know all the kinds of paper and pens, all the series of 
postcards, and she named them all instead of calling 
them by numbers ; she began to love some of them 
and to count others as her enemies. To her favourites 
she allotted the best places in the shop. She kept the 
very newest boxes, those with an edging of gold paper, 
for the writing-paper from a certain factory in Riga 
having the watermark of a fish. The sets of pictures 
representing types of ancient Egyptians were arranged 
in a special drawer in which she kept only these and 
some penholders with little doves at the end of the 
holder. The postcards on which were drawn " The 
Way to the Stars " she wrapped up separately in rose- 
coloured paper and sealed them with a wafer like a 
forget-me-not. But she hated the thick bloated- 
looking glass inkstands, hated the lined transparent 
paper which would never keep straight and seemed 
always to be laughing at her, hated the rolls of crinkled 
paper for lampshades, proud and sumptuous looking. 
These things she would hide away in the remotest 
corner of the shop. 

Anna Nikolaevna rejoiced when she sold any of her 
favourite articles. It was only when her store of this 
or that kind of thing began to run short that she would 
get anxious and even dare to beg Carolina Gustavovna 
to obtain a new supply as soon as possible. Once she 


unexpectedly got sold out of the parts of the little 
letter-weights which acted badly and of which she had 
grown fond because of their misfortune, the proprietor 
herself sold the last one evening and would not order 
any more. Anna Nikolaevna wept for two whole days 
after. When she sold the articles she did not care for 
she felt vexed. When a customer took whole dozens 
of ugly exercise books with blue flowers on the 
covers, or highly coloured postcards with the portraits 
of actors, it seemed to her that her favourites had 
been insulted. On such occasions she so stubbornly 
dissuaded the customers from buying that many of 
them went out of the shop without purchasing any- 
thing at all. 

Anna Nikolaevna was convinced that everything in 
the shop understood her. When she turned over the 
leaves of the quires of her beloved paper they rustled 
so welcomingly. When she kissed the little doves on 
the ends of the penholders they fluttered their little 
wooden wings. In the quiet wintry days when it was 
snowing outside the hoar-frosted window-pane with 
its ugly circles made by the warmth of the lamps, 
when for whole hours no one came into the shop, she 
would hold long conversations with all the things 
standing on the shelves or lying in the drawers and 
boxes. She would listen to their unuttered speech and 
exchange smiles and glances with the things she knew. 


In a rapture she would spread out on the counter her 
favourite pictures of angels, flowers, Egyptians and 
tell them fairy tales and listen to their stories. Some- 
times they all sang to her in a hardly audible chorus, 
a soothing lullaby. Anna Nikolaevna would listen to 
this until an entering customer would smile unkindly, 
thinking he had awakened her from sleep. 

Before Christmas Anna Nikolaevna had a bad time. 
Customers were unusually frequent. The shop was 
filled up with a pile of gaudy eye-offending cards, with 
ugly crackers and gilt Christmas-tree decorations, 
exposed in flimsy boxes. On the walls hung pull-off 
calendars with portraits of great men. The shop was 
full of people and there was no escape from them. But 
all the summer Anna Nikolaevna had a complete rest. 
There was hardly any trade, very often the day passed 
without a copeck being taken. The proprietor went 
away from Moscow for whole months. In the shop it 
was dusty and suffocating, but quiet. Anna Niko- 
laevna distributed her favourite pictures all over the 
shop, placed her favourite pencils, pens and erasers in 
the best positions in the glass cases. She cut out 
narrow ribbons from coloured cigarette-paper and 
wreathed them round the stiff columns of the cup- 
boards. She spoke in loud whispers to her beloved 
objects, telling them about her own childhood, about 
her mother, and weeping as she did so. And it seemed 


to her that they comforted her. And so months and 
years went by. 

Anna Nikolaevna never dreamed that her life might 
change. But one autumn day Carolina Gustavovna, 
having come back to Moscow in a particularly bad and 
quarrelsome mood, declared that there would be a 
general stock-taking. The following Sunday a notice 
was pasted on the door : " This shop is closed to-day." 
Anna Nikolaevna looked on mournfully while the 
proprietor's fat fingers turned over the leaves of her 
best notepaper, those delicate and elegant sheets, 
crumpling the edges ; carelessly flinging on to the 
counter her cherished penholders with the doves. In 
the trade-book, where Anna Nikolaevna had written 
in her timid pale handwriting, the proprietor scrawled 
rude remarks with flourishes and ink-blots. Carolina 
Gustavovna found many things missing whole stacks 
of paper, some gross of pencils, and various separate 
articles a stereoscope, magnifying glasses, frames. 
Anna Nikolaevna felt sure she had never seen them in 
the shop. Then Carolina Gustavovna calculated that 
the takings had been growing less every month. This 
she brought to the notice of Anna Nikolaevna and 
blamed her for it, called her a thief, said she had no 
further use for her services, and dismissed her from her 

Anna Nikolaevna burst into tears, but did not dare 


to utter a word of protest. When she got home, of 
course, she had to listen to her aunt's reproaches, who 
at first called her a good-for-nothing, and then changed 
her tone and threatened to prosecute the German 
woman, saying she couldn't allow her niece to be 
insulted. But Anna Nikolaevna was not so much 
afraid of losing her place nor troubled by the injustice 
of Carolina Gustavovna ; she could not bear to be 
separated from the beloved things in the shop. She 
thought of the pictured angels balancing on the 
clouds, of the heads of Marie Stuart, of the paper bear- 
ing the watermark of a fish, of the familiar boxes and 
drawers, and sobbed unceasingly. She remembered 
that happy evening hour when the lamps had just been 
lighted, remembered her silent conversations with her 
friends and the almost inaudible chorus sounding from 
the shelves, and her heart was rent with despair. At 
the thought that never, never should she see her loved 
ones again, she threw herself down upon her little bed 
and prayed that she might die. 

After about six weeks her aunt was happy to find 
her a new situation, once more in a stationery shop, 
but in a much-frequented and busy street. Anna 
Nikolaevna entered upon her new duties with a pang 
at her heart. There were two others beside herself in 
the shop, another girl and a young man. The master 
also sp ent the greater part of the day there. Ther 


were many customers, for the shop was near several 
educational institutions. All day Anna Nikolaevna 
was under the eyes of the others, and they laughed at 
her and despised her. She did not find her former 
beloved objects in the new shop. All the things were 
ordered through other agents from different firms. 
Paper, pencils, pens nothing here seemed to be alive. 
And if there were any things like those in " Bemol," they 
did not recognise Anna Nikolaevna and it was useless 
for her when she had a moment to whisper to them 
their tenderest names. 

The only pleasure she had now was to look in at the 
windows of her old shop on her way home in the even- 
ing, as it closed later than the new one. She gazed 
through the dusty windowpanes into the well-known 
room. Behind the counter stood the new saleswoman, 
a good-looking German girl with her hair in curling- 
pins. In Fedka's place was a tall fifteen-year-old lad. 
Customers came laughing out of the shop, they had 
found it pleasant inside. But Anna Nikolaevna be- 
lieved that her friends, the pictures and penholders 
and exercise books, remembered her and liked it better 
in the old days, and this belief comforted her. 

For a long while Anna Nikolaevna nursed the fancy 
that she would one day go inside the shop once more 
and look again on the old cupboards and show-cases, 
to show her beloved things that she still remembered 


them. Several times she said to herself that it should 
be that day, but changed her mind, being specially 
afraid of meeting the proprietor. But one evening she 
saw Carolina Gustavovna come out of the shop and 
drive away in a cab. This gave her courage. She 
opened the shop door and entered with a beating heart . 
The German girl in the curl-papers was preparing a 
captivating smile, but seeing a lady customer she 
contented herself with a slight inclination of the head- 

" What can I do for you, miss ? " 

" Give me ... give me ... some note-paper . . . 
a quire . . . with the fishes." 

The German girl smiled condescendingly, guessing 
what was meant, and went to the cupboard. Anna 
Nikolaevna watched her with distrustful and mournful 
eyes. In her time this paper had been kept in the box 
with a gold border. But the box was not there now. 
In its place there were ugly black drawers labelled 
No. 4, 20 copecks, Ministry Paper 40 copecks. The 
best places in the cupboards were occupied by the glass 
inkstands. A pile of crinkled paper took up the whole 
of the lower shelf. The postcards with the portraits 
of actors were arranged fan-wise and fastened here and 
there on the walls. Everything had been moved, 
displaced, changed. 

The German girl put the paper in front of Anna 
Nikolaevna, asking her which sort she wanted. Anna 


Nikolaevna eagerly took into her hands the beautiful 
sheets which once had responded to her caressing 
touch, but now they were stiff as death, and as pale. 
She looked round piteously, everything was dead, 
everything was deaf and dumb. 

" Thirty three-copecks to you, miss." 

Even the price was altered. Anna Nikolaevna paid 
the money and went out of the shop into the cold, 
holding the roll of paper tightly in her hand. The 
October wind penetrated her short, well-worn coat. 
The light of the street lamps was diffused in large blobs 
in the mist. All was cold and hopeless. 




MARIA was the daughter of Rufus the Scribe. 
She was not yet ten years old when on the 
I7th of December, 546, Rome was taken by Totila, 
the king of the Goths. The magnanimous victor 
ordered bugles to be blown all night, so that the Roman 
people might escape from their native town as soon as 
they realised the danger of remaining there. Totila 
knew the violence of his soldiers and he had no wish 
that all the population of the ancient capital of the 
world should perish by the swords of the Goths. So 
Rufus and his wife Florentia fled with their little 
daughter Maria. An enormous crowd of refugees 
from Rome left the city through the night by the 
Appian Way ; hundreds of them falling exhausted on 
the road. The greater number, among whom were 
Rufus and his family, succeeded in getting as far as 
Bovillae, where, however, very many were unable to 
find shelter. Many of them had to camp out in the 
open. Later on they were all scattered in various 
directions, seeking some place of refuge. Some went to 



the Campagna and were taken prisoners by the Goths, 
who were in possession there ; some got as far as the 
sea and were even able to set out for Sicily. The rest 
either remained as beggars in the neighbourhood of 
Bovillae or managed to get into Samnium. 

Rufus had a friend living near Corbio. To this poor 
man, Anthony by name, who earned a living by rearing 
pigs on a small plot of land, Rufus brought his family. 
Anthony took the fugitives in and shared with them his 
scanty store. And while living in the swineherd's 
wretched hut Rufus heard of all the misfortunes which 
came upon Rome. At one time Totila threatened to 
raze the Eternal City to its foundations and turn it 
into a place of pasture. But the Gothic king after- 
wards relented and contented himself by burning 
several districts of the town and pillaging all that 
still icmained from the cupidity and violence of 
Alaric, Genseric and Ricimer. In the spring of 547 
Totila left Rome, but he took off with him all the in- 
habitants who had remained in the city. For forty 
days the capital of the world stood empty : there was 
not a human being left in it, and along its streets 
wandered only frightened animals and wild beasts. 
Then, timidly, a few at a time, the Romans began to 
return to their city. And a little later Rome was 
occupied by Belisarius and was once more united to 
the dominions of the Eastern empire. 


Then Rufus and his family returned to Rome. They 
sought out their little house on the Remuria, which by 
reason of its insignificance had been spared by the 
spoilers. Almost all the poor belongings of Rufus were 
found to be intact, including the library and its rolls 
of parchment, so precious to the scribe. It seemed as 
if it might be possible to forget all the misfortunes they 
had undergone, as in some oppressive dream, and to 
continue their former life. But very soon it became 
clear that such a hope was deceptive. The war was far 
from being at an end. Rome had to endure another 
siege by Totila when again the inhabitants died in 
hundreds from hunger and lack of water. Then when 
the Goths at length raised their unsuccessful siege, 
Belisarius also left Rome, and the city acknowledged 
the rule of the covetous Byzantine Konon, from whom 
the Romans fled as from an enemy. At a later period 
the Goths, taking advantage of treacherous sentries, 
occupied Rome for the second time. This time, how- 
ever, Totila not only refrained from plundering the 
city, but he even strove to bring into it some kind of 
order, and he wished to restore the ruined buildings. 
At length, after the death of Totila, Rome was taken 
by Narses. This was in 552. 

It would be difficult to show clearly how Rufus 
managed to live through these six calamitous years. 
In the time of war and siege no one had need of the art 


of a scribe. No one any longer gave Rufus an order 
for a transcription from the works of the ancient poets 
or the fathers of the Church. In the city there were no 
authorities to whom it might be necessary to address 
petitions of various kinds. There were not many 
people, money was very scarce and food supplies 
scarcer still. He had to make a living by any kind of 
accidental work, serving either Goths or Byzantines, 
not disdaining to be a stone-mason when the town walls 
were being repaired or to be a porter of baggage for the 
troops. And with all this the entire family often went 
hungry, not only for days, but for whole weeks. Wine 
was not to be thought of ; the only drink was bad 
water from the cisterns or from the Tiber, for the 
aqueducts had been destroyed by the Goths. It was 
only possible to endure such privations by knowing 
that everybody without exception was subject to them. 
The descendants of senators and patricians, the 
children of the richest and most illustrious families 
would ask on the streets for a piece of bread, as beggars. 
Rusticiana, the daughter of Symmachus and widow of 
Boethius, held out her hand for alms. 

It was not to be wondered at that during these years 
the little Maria was left very much to her own devices. 
In her early childhood her father had taught her to 
read both Greek and Latin. But after their return to 
Rome he had no time to occupy himself further with 



her education. For whole days together she would do 
just what she thought she would. Her mother did not 
require her help in housekeeping, for there was hardly 
any housekeeping to be done. In order to pass the 
time Maria used to read the books which were still 
preserved in the house as there was no one who would 
buy them. But more often she would go out of the 
house and wander like a little wild animal about the 
deserted streets, forums and squares, much too broad 
for the now insignificant populace. The few passers-by 
soon became accustomed to the black-eyed girl in 
ragged garments, who ran about everywhere like a 
mouse, and they paid no attention to her. Rome 
became, as it were, an immense home for Maria. She 
knew it better than any writer who had described its 
noteworthy treasures of old time. Day after day she 
would go out into the immense area of the city, where 
over a million people had once dwelt, and she would 
learn to love some corners of it and detest others. And 
it was often not until late evening that she would 
return to her father's cheerless roof, where it often 
happened that she would go supperless to bed, after a 
whole day spent on her feet. 

In her wanderings through the town Maria would 
visit the most remote districts on either side of the 
Tiber, where there were empty partly burnt down 
houses, and there she would dream of the greatness of 


Rome in the past. She would examine the few statues 
which still remained whole in the squares the im- 
mense bull on the Bull forum, the giant elephants in 
bronze on the Sacred Way, the statues of Domitian, 
Marcus Aurelius, and other famous men of ancient 
time, the columns, obelisks and bas-reliefs, striving to 
remember what she had read about them all, and if her 
knowledge was scanty, she would supplement it by 
any story she had read. She would go into the aban- 
doned palaces of people who had once been rich, and 
admire the pitiful remains of former luxury in the 
decoration of the rooms, the mosaic of the floors, the 
various-coloured marble of the walls, the sumptuous 
tables, chairs, candlesticks, which in some places still 
remained. In this way she visited the ruined baths, 
which were like separate towns within the city, and 
were entirely deserted because there was no water to 
supply their insatiable pipes ; in some of the buildings 
could still be seen magnificent marble reservoirs, 
mosaic floors, bathing chairs, baths of precious ala- 
baster or porphyry, and in places some half-destroyed 
statues which had escaped being used by Goths and 
Byzantines as material for hurling at the enemy from 
the ballista. In the quietness of the enormous rooms 
Maria would hear echoes of the rich and careless lives 
of the thousands and thousands of people who had 
gathered there daily to meet friends, to discuss litera- 


ture or philosophy, and to anoint their effeminate 
bodies before festival banquets. In the Grand Circus 
which now looked like a wild ravine, for it was all over- 
grown with weeds and tall grasses Maria thought of 
the triumphant horse-racing competitions, on which 
thousands of spectators had gazed and deafened the 
fortunate victors with a storm of applause. She could 
not but know of these festivals, for the last of them 
(oh ! pitiful shadow of past splendour) had been 
arranged once more in her own lifetime by Totila during 
his second sovereignty in Rome. Sometimes Maria 
would simply walk along the Tiber bank, sit down in 
some comfortable spot under some half-ruined wall, 
and look at the yellow waters of the river, made 
famous by poets and artists, and in the quietness of the 
deserted place she would think and dream, and think 
and dream again. 

She became accustomed to live in her dreams. The 
half-ruined, half-abandoned town fed her imagination 
generously. Everything she heard from her elders, 
everything she read in her disorderly fashion from her 
father's books, mingled itself together in her brain into 
a strange, chaotic, but endlessly captivating representa- 
tion of the great and ancient city. She was convinced 
that the former Rome had been in reality the con- 
centration of all beauty, a marvellous town where all 
was enchantment, where all life had been one con- 


tinuous festival. Centuries and epochs were confused 
in her poor little head, the times of Orestes seemed to 
her no further away than the rule of Trajan, and the 
reign of the wise Numa Pompilius as near as that of 
Odoacer. For her, antiquity comprised all that pre- 
ceded the Goths ; far away but still happy was the olden 
time, the rule of the great Theodoric ; the new time 
began for her at her birth, at the time of the first siege 
of Rome, in the time of Belisarius. In antiquity every- 
thing seemed to Maria to be marvellous, beautiful, 
wonderful ; in the olden time all was attractive and 
fortunate, in modern times everything was miserable 
and dreadful. And she tried not to notice the cruel 
reality of the present, but to live in her dreams in the 
antiquity which she loved, with her favourite heroes, 
among whom were the god Bacchus ; Camillus, the 
second founder of the city ; Caesar, who had been 
exalted up to the stars in the heavens ; Diocletian, 
the wisest of all people, and Romulus Augustulus, the 
unhappiest of all the great. All these and many others 
whose names she had only heard by chance were the 
beloved of her reveries and the ordinary apparitions 
of her half -childish dreams. 

Little by little in her dreams Maria created her own 
history of Rome, not at all like that which was told at 
one time by the eloquent Livy and afterwards by other 
historians and annalists. As she admired the statues 


which still remained whole and read their half -erased 
inscriptions, Maria interpreted everything in her own 
way and found everywhere corroboration of her own 
unrestrained imagination. She said to herself that 
such and such a statue represented the young Augustus, 
and nothing would then have convinced her that it 
was a bad portrait of some half-barbarian who had 
lived only fifty years ago, and had forced some ignorant 
maker of tombs to immortalise his features in a piece 
of cheap marble. Or when she looked at a bas-relief 
depicting some scene from the Odyssey she would 
create from it a long story in which her beloved heroes 
would again figure Mars, Brutus, or the emperor 
Honorius, and would soon be convinced that she had 
read this story in one of her father's books. She would 
create legend after legend, myth after myth, and live 
in their world as one more real than the world of books, 
and still more real than the pitiful world which en- 
compassed her. 

After she had dreamed for a sufficiently long time, 
and when she felt tired out by walking and exhausted 
by hunger, Maria would return home. There her 
mother, who had become bad-tempered from the mis- 
fortunes she had endured, would meet her gloomily, 
roughly push towards her a piece of bread and a morsel 
of cheese, or a head of garlic if there happened to be 
one in the kitchen, adding occasionally some scolding 


words to the meagre supper. Maria, unsociable as a 
captive bird, would eat what was given her and then 
hasten away to her little room and its hard bed to 
dream again until she slept and then dream again in her 
sleep about the blessed, dazzling times of antiquity. 
On especially happy days, when her father happened to 
be at home and in a good temper, he would sometimes 
have a chat with Maria. And their talk would quickly 
turn to the ancient times, so dear to them both. 
Maria would question'her father about bygone Rome, 
and then hold her breath while the old scribe, led 
away by his theme, would begin to talk of the great 
empire in the time of Theodosius, or recite verses 
from the ancient poets, Virgil, Ausonias and Claudian. 
And the chaos in her poor little head would fall into 
still greater confusion, and at times it would begin to 
seem to her that her actual life was only a dream, and 
that in reality she was living in the blessed times of 
Ennius Augustus or Gratian. 


After the occupation of Rome by Narses, life in the 
city began to take more or less its ordinary course. 
The ruler established himself on the Palatine, some of 
the desolated rooms of the Imperial palace were reno- 
vated for him, and in the evenings they were lit up 
with lamps. The Byzantines had brought money with 


them, and trade in Rome began to revive. The main 
streets became comparatively safe and the impover- 
ished inhabitants of the empty Campagna brought 
provisions into Rome to sell. Here and there wine 
taverns were reopened. There was even a demand for 
articles of luxury, which were purchased mainly by the 
frivolous women who, like a flock of ravens, followed 
the mongrel armies of the great eunuch. Monks went 
to and fro along all the streets, and from them also it 
was possible to make some sort of profit. The thirty 
or forty thousand inhabitants now gathered together 
in Rome, including the troops, gave to the city, 
especially in the central districts, the appearance of a 
populous and even of a lively place. 

There was found at length some real work for Rufus. 
Narses, and afterwards his successor, the Byzantine 
general, received various complaints and petitions for 
the copying of which the art of a scribe was in request. 
The edicts of Justinian, acknowledging some of the 
acts of the Gothic kings and repudiating others, 
afforded pretext for endless chicanery and processes 
of law. Rufus sometimes had to copy papers addressed 
directly to His Holiness the Emperor in Byzantium, 
and for these he was comparatively well paid. And 
more important orders came to him. A new monastery 
wanted to have a written list of its service-books. A 
whimsical person ordered a copy of the poems of the 


famous Rutilius. In the house of Rufus there was 
once more a certain sufficiency. The family could have 
dinner every day and need no longer feel anxious about 
the morrow. 

Everything might have been well in Rufus' home if 
the scribe, who had aged greatly in consequence of 
years of deprivation, had not taken to drink. Often- 
times he left all his earnings in some tavern or other. 
This was a heavy blow for Florentia. She struggled in 
every way to combat the unhappy passion of her 
husband and tried to take from him all the money he 
earned, but Rufus descended to every sort of artifice 
and always found means of getting drunk. Maria, 
on the contrary, loved the days of her father's drunken 
bouts. Then he would come home in a gay mood and 
pay no attention to the tears and reproaches of 
Florentia, but would eagerly call Maria to him, if she 
were at home, talk to her again endlessly about the 
old greatness of the Eternal City, and read to her 
verses from the old poets and those of his own com- 
position. The half-witted girl and her drunken father 
somehow understood one another, and they often sat 
together till late in the night, after the angry Florentia 
had left them and gone to bed alone. 

Maria herself did not change her way of life. In 
vain her father when sober forced her to help him in 
his work. In vain her mother was angry with her 


daughter for not sharing with her the cares of house- 
keeping. When Maria was obliged she would against 
her will sullenly transcribe a few lines or peel a few 
onions, but at the first opportunity she would run out 
of the house to wander all day again in her favourite 
corners of the city. She was scolded on her return, 
but she listened silently to all reproaches and made no 
reply. What mattered scoldings to her when in her 
vision there still glistened all the sumptuous pictures 
with which her imagination had been soothed while 
she had been hidden near a porphyry basin in the baths 
of Caracullus or had lain secreted in the thick grass on 
the banks of old Tiber. For the sake of not having her 
visions taken from her she would willingly have en- 
dured blows and every kind of torture. In these visions 
were all her life. 

In the autumn of 554 Maria saw in the streets of 
Rome the triumphal procession of Narses the last 
triumph celebrated in the Eternal City. The eunuch's 
troops of many different races among whom were 
Greeks, Huns, Heruli, Gepidae, Persians passed in an 
inharmonious crowd along the Sacred Way, bearing 
rich booty taken from the Goths. The soldiers sang 
gay songs in the most diverse languages and their 
voices mingled in wild and deafening cries. The 
general, crowned with laurel, drove in a chariot drawn 
by white horses. At the gates of Rome he was met by 


men dressed in white togas making themselves out to 
be senators. Narses went through half -demolished 
Rome, along streets in which the grass had grown up 
between the mighty paving-stones, in the direction of 
the Capitol. There he laid down his crown before a 
statue of Justinian, obtained from somewhere or other 
for this occasion. Then he went on foot through the 
town once more, going back to the Basilica of St. Peter, 
where he was met by the Pope and clergy in festival 
robes. The Roman people crowded into the streets and 
gazed at the spectacle without any special enthusiasm, 
though the chief actors had done their utmost to make 
it magnificent. The Byzantine triumph was for 
Romans something foreign, almost like a triumph of 
the enemies of their native land. 

And on Maria the triumphal procession made no 
impression whatever. She looked with indifferent eyes 
upon the medley of colours in the soldiers' garments, 
on the triumphal toga of the eunuch a small, beard- 
less old man with shifty eyes and on the festal robes 
of the priests. The songs and martial cries of the 
soldiers only aroused her horror. It all seemed, to her 
so different from the triumphs she had so often imagined 
in her lonely visions the triumphs of Augustus 
Vespasian, Valentian ! Here everything appeared to 
her to be strange and ugly ; there, all had been mag- 
nificence and beauty ! And without waiting to see the 


whole of the procession, Maria ran away from the 
basilica of St. Peter on to the Appian Way, to the 
ruined baths of Caracullus, which she loved, so that in 
the quietness of the marble hall she might weep freely 
over the irrevocable past and see it anew in her dreams, 
living and beautiful as it alone could be. Maria went 
home late that day and did not wish to answer any 
questions as to whether she had seen the procession. 

At this time Maria was nearly eighteen. She was 
not beautiful. She was thin, her figure was un- 
developed and with her wild black eyes and the hectic 
colour in her cheeks she rather affrighted than attracted 
attention. She had no friend. When the young girls 
of the neighbourhood spoke to her she answered ab- 
ruptly and in monosyllables, and hastened to bring the 
conversation to an end. How could they these other 
girls understand her secret dreams, her sacred visions? 
Of what could she speak with them ? She was thought 
not so much to be stupid as imbecile. And then, she 
never went to church. Sometimes, on the deserted 
streets a drunken passer-by would come up to her and 
try to take her arm or embrace her. Then Maria 
would turn on him like a wild cat, scratching, biting, 
hitting out with her fists, and she would be left in peace. 
One young man, however, the son of a neighbouring 
coppersmith, had wanted to pay attentions to her. 
When her mother spoke to her about him Maria heard 


the news with unfeigned horror. When her mother 
became insistent, saying that she could not now find a 
better husband anywhere Maria began to sob in such 
desperation that Florentia left her alone, making up 
her mind that her daughter was either too young to be 
married or that she was indeed not quite in her right 
mind. So Maria was allowed to live in freedom and 
to fill up her endless leisure time as she pleased. 

So passed days and weeks and months. Rufus 
worked and drank. Florentia busied herself over her 
housekeeping and scolded. Both thought themselves 
unhappy, and cursed their wretched fate. Maria 
alone was happy in the world of her fancies. She 
began to pay less and less attention to the hateful 
actuality of her surroundings. She went deeper and 
deeper into the kingdom of her visions. She already 
held conversations with the forms which her imagina- 
tion created as with living people. She used to return 
home with the conviction that to-day she had met the 
goddess Vesta or the dictator Sulla. She would re- 
member the things she had imagined as if they had 
actually taken place. When she talked with her father 
at nights she would tell him all her remembrances, and 
the old Rufus would not be amazed. Every story of 
hers gave him a pretext for being ready with some lines 
of poetry he would complete and develop the insane 
fancies of his daughter, and as she listened sleepily to 


their strange conversations Florentia would sometimes 
spit and pronounce a curse, sometimes cross herself 
and whisper a prayer to the Holy Virgin. 


In the spring following the triumphal procession of 
Narses Maria was one day wandering near the ruined 
walls of the baths of Trajan, when she noticed that in 
one place, where evidently the Esquiline Hill took its 
rise, there was a strange opening in the ground, like 
an entrance somewhere. The district was a deserted 
one ; all around there were only deserted and un- 
inhabited houses ; the pavements were broken and the 
steep slope of the hill was overgrown with tall grass. 
After some effort Maria succeeded in getting to the 
opening. Beyond it was a dark and narrow passage. 
Without hesitation she crawled into it. She had to 
crawl for a long way in utter darkness and in a stifling 
atmosphere. At the end of the passage there was a 
sudden drop. When Maria's eyes grew accustomed 
to the darkness she could distinguish by the faint light 
which came from the opening by which she had entered 
that in front of her was a spacious hall of some un- 
known palace. After a little reflection the girl con- 
sidered that she would not be able to see it without a 
light. She went back cautiously, and all that day she 
wandered about, pondering on the matter. Rome 


seemed to her to be her own property, and she could 
not endure the idea that there was anything in the city 
about which she knew nothing. 

The next day, having secured a home-made torch, 
Maria returned to the place. Not without some danger 
to herself she got down into the hall she had discovered 
and there lighted the torch. A stately chamber pre- 
sented itself to her gaze. The lower half of the walls 
was of marble, and above it were painted marvellous 
pictures. Bronze statues stood in niches, amazing 
work, for the statues seemed to be living people. It 
was possible to distinguish that the floor, now covered 
with earth and rubbish, was of mosaic. After admiring 
this new spectacle, Maria was emboldened to go 
further. Through an immense door she passed into a 
whole labyrinth of passages and cross-passages leading 
her into a new hall, still more magnificent than the first. 
Further on was a long suite of rooms, decorated with 
marble and gold, with wall paintings and statuary ; in 
many places there still remained valuable furniture 
and various domestic articles of fine workmanship. 
Spiders, lizards, sow-bugs ran all around ; bats flut- 
tered here and there ; but Maria, enthralled by the 
unique spectacle, saw nothing of them. Before her 
was the life of ancient Rome, living, in all its fulness, 
discovered by her at last. 

How long she enjoyed herself there on that first 


day of her discovery she did not know. She was 
overcome, either by her strong agitation or by the 
foul atmosphere. When she came to her senses again 
she was on the damp stone floor, and her torch 
was extinguished, having burnt itself out. In utter 
darkness she began gropingly to seek a way out. She 
wandered for a long time, for many hours, but only 
became confused in the countless passages and rooms. 
In the misty consciousness of the girl there was a 
glimmer of a notion that she was fated to die in this 
unknown palace, which was itself buried under the 
ground. Such an idea did not alarm Maria ; on the 
contrary, it seemed to her both beautiful and desirable 
to end her life among the splendid remains of ancient 
life, in a marble hall, at the foot of a beautiful statue 
somewhere or other. She was only sorry for one thing 
that darkness lay around her, and that she was not 
fated to see the beauty in the midst of which she was 
to die. . . . Suddenly a ray of light shone before her. 
Gathering up her strength, Maria went towards it. It 
was the light of the moon shining through an opening 
like that by which she had entered the palace. 
But this opening was in an entirely different hall. 
By great efforts, scrambling up by the projections of 
the walls Maria got out into the open air in an 
hour when the whole city was already asleep and the 
moon reigned in her full glory over the heaps of the 


half-ruined buildings. Keeping close by the walls, in 
order to attract no attention, Maria reached home 
almost dead from exhaustion. Her father was absent, 
he did not come home all that night, and her mother 
only uttered a few coarse outcries. 

After this Maria began daily to visit the subterranean 
palace she had discovered. Little by little she learnt 
all its corridors and halls, so that she could wander 
about them in utter darkness without fear of losing her 
way again. She always carried with her, however, a 
little lamp or a resin torch, so that she could adequately 
enjoy the sumptuous decorations of the rooms. She 
learnt to know all about them. She knew the rooms 
which were covered with paintings and decorations in 
crimson, others where a yellow colour predominated, 
others which by the green of the paintings reminded 
her of fresh meadows or of a garden, others which were 
all white with ornamentations of black ebony : she 
knew all the wall paintings, some of which depicted 
scenes from the lives of gods and heroes, some showed 
the great battles of antiquity, some showed the por- 
traits of great men, others the ridiculous adventures of 
fauns and cupids ; she knew all the statues that were 
preserved in the palace, both bronze and marble, the 
small busts in the niches, the glorious piece of sculpture 
of entire figures of enormous size which represented 
three people, a man and two youths, who were encircled 


in the coils of a gigantic serpent and were vainly striv- 
ing to free themselves from its fatal embrace. 

But of all the decorations in the underground palace 
Maria specially loved one bas-relief. It represented a 
young girl, slim and graceful, resting in a deep sleep in 
a kind of cave ; near her stood a youth in warlike 
armour, with a noble face of marvellbus beauty ; above 
them, and as it were in the clouds, was depicted a 
woven basket containing two young children, floating 
on a river. It seemed to Maria that the features of the 
young girl in the picture were like her own. She recog- 
nised herself in this slim sleeping princess, and for 
whole hours she would untiringly admire her, imagining 
herself in her place. At times Maria was ready to 
believe that some ancient artist had marvellously 
divined that at some time a young girl Maria would 
appear in the world, and that he had by anticipation, 
created her portrait in the bas-relief of the mysterious 
enchanted palace, which must have been preserved 
untouched under the earth for hundreds of years. The 
significance of the other figures in the bas-relief was 
not realised by her for a long while. 

But one evening Maria happened once more to have 
a talk with her father, who had come home drunk and 
in a gay mood. They were alone, for Florentia, as 
usual, had left them to their f oolish chattering and had 
gone to bed. Maria told her father of the underground 


palace she had discovered and of its treasures. The 
old Rufus listened to this story in the same way as he 
heard all the other fancies of his daughter. When she 
used to tell him that she had that day met Constantine 
the Great in the street and that he had graciously con- 
versed with her, Rufus would not be surprised, but he 
would begin to talk about Constantine. And now, when 
Maria spoke to him of the treasures of the underground 
palace the old scribe at once talked about this palace. 

" Yes, yes, little daughter," said he. " Between the 
Palatine and the Esquiline, it really is there. It is the 
Golden House of the emperor Nero, the most beautiful 
palace ever built in Rome. Nero had not sufficient 
space for it and he set fire to Rome. Rome was burnt, 
and the emperor recited verses about the burning of 
Troy. And afterwards, on the space that had been 
cleared, he built his Golden House. Yes, yes, it was 
between the Palatine and the Esquiline ; you're right. 
There was nothing more beautiful in the city. But after 
Nero's death other emperors destroyed the palace out 
of envy, and heaped earth upon it ; it existed no longer. 
They built houses and baths on its site. But it was the 
most beautiful of all the palaces." 

Then, having become bolder, Maria told her father 
about her beloved bas-relief. And again the old scribe 
was not surprised. He at once explained to his daughter 
what the artist had wished to express 


" That, my daughter, is Rhea Silvia, the vestal 
virgin, daughter of King Numitor. But a youth this 
god Mars, fell in love with the maiden and sought her 
out in the sacred cave. Twin sons were born to them, 
Romulus and Remus. Rhea Silvia was drowned in the 
Tiber, the infants were suckled by a wolf and they 
became the founders of the City. Yes, that is how it 
all was, my daughter." 

Rufus told Maria in detail the touching story of the 
guilty vestal Ilia, or Rhea Silvia, and he at once began 
to recite some lines from the " Metamorphoses " of the 
ancient Naso : 

Proximus Ausonias iniusti miles Amuli 
Rexit opes . . . 

But Maria was not listening to her father, she was 
repeating quietly to herself : 

" It is Rhea Silvia ! Rhea Silvia ! " 


After that day Maria spent still more of her time 
looking at the wonderful bas-relief. She would take 
a scanty luncheon with her, as well as a torch, so that 
she might stay some hours longer in the underground 
palace, which she considered to be more her own home 
than her father's house. She would lie on the cold and 
slippery floor in front of the sculptured daughter 
of Numitor, and by the faint light of her resinous torch 


she would gaze for long hours at the features of the 
slender maiden sleeping in the sacred cave. With 
every day it became more apparent to Maria that she 
was strangely like this ancient vestal, and little by 
little in her dreams, she became less able to distinguish 
which was poor Maria, the daughter of Rufus the 
Scribe, and which the unhappy Ilia, daughter of the 
King of Alba Longa. She always called herself Rhea 
Silvia. Lying in front of the picture she would 
dream that to her, in this new sacred cave, the 
god Mars would appear, and that from their divine 
embraces there would be born of her the twins 
Romulus and Remus, who would become the founders 
of the Eternal City. True, she would have to pay for 
this by her death and be drowned in the muddy 
waters of the Tiber but could death terrify Maria ? 
She often fell asleep while musing thus before the bas- 
relief, and dreamed of this same god Mars with his noble 
face of marvellous beauty and his divine, consuming 
embrace. And when she awoke she would not know 
whether it had been dream or reality. 

It was already scorching July, when the streets of 
Rome at midday were as empty as after the terrible 
command of King Totila. But in the underground 
palace it was damp and cool. Maria, as before, went 
there every day to muse, in her habitual sweet reveries, 
before the pictured Ilia, who lay dreaming of the god 


destined for her. And one day, when in a slight doze, she 
was once again giving herself up to the ardent caresses 
of the god Mars, suddenly a noise of some kind forced 
her to awake. She opened her eyes, not understanding 
anything as yet, and glanced around. By the light of the 
little torch which she had placed in a cranny between 
the stones, she saw before her a young man. He was 
not in warlike armour, but wore the dress usually worn 
at that time by poor Romans ; his face, however, was 
full of nobility, and to Maria it appeared radiant with 
a marvellous beauty. For some moments she looked 
with amazement on the unexpected apparition, on the 
man who had found his way into this enchanted palace 
which she had thought unknown to anyone save her- 
self. Then, sitting upright on the floor, the girl asked 
simply : 

" You have come to me ? " 

The young man smiled a quiet and attractive smile, 
and answered by another question. 

" But who are you, maiden ? The genius of this 
place ? " 

Maria answered : 

" I am Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin, daughter of 
King Numitor. And are you not the god Mars, come 
in search of me ? " 

" No, I am no god," objected the young man. " I 
am a mortal, my name is Agapit, and I was not 


searching here for you. But all the same, I am glad 
to find you. Greeting to you, daughter of King 
Numitor ! " 

Maria invited the young man to sit down beside her, 
and he at once consented. So they sat together, youth 
and maiden, on the damp floor, in the magnificent hall 
of Nero's Golden House, buried under ground, and 
they looked into each other's eyes and knew not at 
first what to talk about. Then Maria pointed out the 
bas-relief to the young man and began to tell him all 
the legend of the unhappy vestal. But the youth 
interrupted her story. 

" I know this, Rhea," said he, " but how strange ! 
The face of the girl in the bas-relief is actually like 

" It is I," answered Maria. 

So much conviction was in her words that the youth 
was perplexed and knew not what to think. But 
Maria gently placed her hand on his shoulder and 
began to speak ingratiatingly, almost timidly. 

" Do not deny it : you are the god Mars in the form 
of a mortal. But I recognise you. I have expected 
you for a long while. I knew that you would come. I 
am not afraid of death. Let them drown me in the 

For a long while the young man listened to Maria's 
incoherent speech. All around was strange. This 


underground palace, known to no one, with its magni- 
cent apartments where only lizards and bats were liv- 
ing. And the obscurity of this immense hall, barely 
lighted by the faint light of the two torches. And this 
obscure maiden, like the Rhea Silvia of the ancient bas- 
relief, with her unintelligible speeches, who in some 
marvellous fashion had lighted upon the buried Golden 
House of Nero. The young man felt that the rude 
actuality of the life he had lived just before his entrance 
into the underground dwelling had vanished into thin 
air as a dream disappears in the morning. In another 
moment he might have believed that he himself was 
the god Mars, and that he had met here his beloved, 
Ilk the vestal, the daughter of Numitor. Putting the 
greatest restraint upon himself, he broke in upon 
Maria's speech. 

" Dear maiden," said he, " listen to me. You are 
mistaken about me. I am not he for whom you take 
me. I will tell you the whole truth. Agapit is not my 
real name. I am a Goth, and my name is really 
Theodat. But I am obliged to conceal my origin, for I 
should be put to death if it were known. Haven't you 
heard, by my pronunciation, that I am not a Roman. 
When my fellow-countrymen left your city, I did not 
follow them. I love Rome, I love its history and its 
i tradition. I want to live and die in the Eternal City, 
which once belonged to us. So now, under the name of 


Agapit, I am in the service of an armourer ; I work by 
day, and in the evenings I wander about the city and 
admire its memorials which have escaped destruction. 
As I knew that Nero's Golden House had been built on 
this spot, I got in to this underground palace so that I 
could admire the remains of its former beauty. That 
is all. I have told you the whole truth, and I do not 
think you will betray me, for one word from you would 
be enough to have me put to death." 

Maria listened to the words of Theodat with in- 
credulity and dissatisfaction. After a little thought 
she said : " Why are you deceiving me ? Why do you 
wish to take the form of a Goth ? Can I not see the 
nimbus round your head ? Mars Gradivus, for others 
thou art a god, for me thou art my beloved. Do not 
mock thy poor bride, Rhea Silvia ! " 

Theodat looked again for a long while at the young 
girl who spoke such foolish words, and he began to 
guess that Maria was not in her right mind. And 
when this thought came into his head he said to him- 
self, " Poor girl ! I will never take advantage of your 
unprotected state ! This would be unworthy of a 
Goth." Then he gently put his arms around Maria 
and began to talk to her as to a little child, not con- 
tradicting her strange fancies but acknowledging him- 
self to be the god Mars. And for a long while they sat 
side by side in the semi-darkness, not exchanging one 


kiss, talking and dreaming together of the future Rome 
which would be founded by their twin sons Romulus 
and Remus. At last the torches began to burn low, 
and Theodat said to Maria : 

" Dear Rhea Silvia, it is already late. We must go 
away from here." 

" But you will come again to-morrow ? " asked 

Theodat looked at the young girl. She seemed to 
him strangely attractive, with her thin, half -childish 
figure, the 'hectic flush on her cheeks and her deep 
black eyes. There was an incomprehensible attrac- 
tion in this meeting of theirs in the dim hall of 
the buried palace, before the marvellous bas-relief of 
an unknown artist. Theodat desired to repeat these 
minutes of strange intercourse with the poor crazy girl, 
and he answered : 

" Yes, maiden, to-morrow at this hour, after my day's 
work, I will come again to you here." 

Hand in hand they went in the direction of the way 
out. Theodat had a rope ladder with him. He helped 
Maria to climb up to the hole which served as an 
entrance to the palace. Evening had already fallen 
when they reached the streets. 

Before they separated Theodat said once more, 
looking into Maria's eyes : 

" Remember, maiden, you must not tell anyone that 


you have met me. It might cost me my life. Good- 
bye until to-morrow." 

He got out first into the open-air and was soon out 
of sight round a bend of the road. Maria went slowly 
home. If it happened that evening that she had a talk 
with her father, she would not tell him that at last 
Mars Gradivus had come to her. 


Theodat did not deceive Maria. Next day, towards 
evening he really came again to the Golden House and 
to the bas-relief representing Mars and Rhea Silvia, 
where Maria was already awaiting him. The young 
man had brought with him some bread and cheese and 
some wine, and they had their supper together in the 
magnificent hall of Nero's palace. Maria mused aloud 
again about the beauty of life in the past, about gods, 
heroes, and emperors, mixing up stories of her own 
experiences with the wanderings of her fancy ; but 
Theodat, with his arm around the girl, gently stroked 
her hand or her shoulder, and admired the black depth 
of her eyes. Then they walked together through the 
empty underground rooms, shedding the light of their 
torches on the great creations of Greek and Roman 
genius. When they parted they again exchanged a 
promise to meet on the following day. 

From that time, every day, when Theodat had 


finished his dull labour at the armourer's workshop, 
where they made and repaired helmets, pikes, and 
armour for the company of Byzantines who were 
garrisoning Rome, he went to meet the strange young 
girl who thought herself to be the vestal virgin Ilia, 
alive once more. There was an unconquerable attrac- 
tion for the young man in the lissom body of the girl 
and in her half-foolish words, to which he was ready to 
listen for whole hours together. They explored to- 
gether all the halls, corridors, and rooms of the palace, 
as far as they could get ; they rejoiced together over 
each newly-found statue, each newly-noticed bas-relief, 
and there was never a day but some unexpected dis- 
covery filled their souls with a new rapture. Day after 
day they lived in an unchanging happiness enjoying 
the creations of Art, and in moments of emotion before 
a new-found marble sculpture, the work perhaps of 
Praxiteles, young man and maiden would lean to- 
wards one another and embrace in a pure and blessed 

Imperceptibly Theodat began to consider the Golden 
House of Nero as his own home, and Maria became 
to him the nearest and dearest being in the world. 
How this happened Theodat himself did not know. 
But all the rest of the time which he spent on the earth 
seemed to him a burdensome and distasteful obliga- 
tion, and only the time that he spent with Rhea Silvia 


underground, in the palace of the ancient emperor, 
seemed to him to be real life. The whole day the young 
man awaited in a torture of impatience the moment 
when he could at last leave the brass helmets and 
hammers and pincers, and with the rope ladder hidden 
under his garments run off to the slope of the Esquiline 
for his secret meeting. Only by these meetings did 
Theodat reckon his days. If he had been asked what 
attracted him in Maria he would have found it difficult 
to answer. But without her, without her simple talk, 
without her strange, eyes all his life would have 
seemed empty and void. 

On the earth, in the armourer's workshop, or in his 
own pitiful little room which he rented from a priest, 
Theodat could reason sanely. He would say to himself 
that this Rhea Silvia was a poor crazy girl, and that 
he himself perhaps was doing wrong in corroborating 
her pernicious fancies. But when he went down into 
the cool damp obscurity of the Golden House, Theodat, 
as it were, changed everything his thoughts and his 
soul. He became something different, not what he was 
in the sultry heat of the Roman day or in the stifling 
atmosphere of the forge. He felt himself in another 
world there, where in reality could be met both the 
vestal virgin Ilia, daughter of King Numitor, and the 
god Mars, who had taken upon himself the form of a 
young Goth. In this world everything was possible 


and all miracles were natural. In this world the past 
was still living, and the fables of the poets were clearly 
realised at every step. 

Not that Theodat fully believed in Maria's delusions. 
But when, before some statue of an ancient emperor 
she would begin to speak of meeting him on the Forum 
and talking with him, it seemed to Theodat that some- 
thing of the sort had actually taken place. When 
Maria told him about the riches of her father, King 
Numitor, Theodat was ready to think that she was 
speaking the truth. And when she had visions of the 
glories of the future Rome, which would be founded by 
the new Romulus and Remus, Theodat himself was 
led to develop these visions, and to speak about the 
new victories of the Eternal City, its new conquests of 
territory, its new world-wide fame. . . . And together 
they would imagine the names of the coming emperors 
who would rule in their children's city. . . . Maria 
always spoke of herself as Rhea Silvia and of Theodat 
as Mars, and he became so accustomed to these names 
that there were times when he deliberately called him- 
self by the name of the ancient Roman god of war. 
And when both of them, young man and maiden, were 
intoxicated by the darkness and by the marvellous 
creations of Art, by their nearness to one anojther and 
by their strange half-crazy dreams, Theodat almost 


began to feel in his veins the divine ichor of an Olym- 
pian god. 

And again the days went by. At the very beginning 
of his acquaintance with Maria, Theodat had promised 
himself to spare the crazy girl and not to take ad- 
vantage of her weak intellect and her unprotected state. 
But with each new meeting it became in every way 
more and more difficult for him to keep his word. 
Meeting every day the girl he already loved with all 
the passion of youthful love, spending long hours with 
her alone in this isolated place, in the half -darkness, 
touching her hands and shoulders, feeling her breathing 
close beside him, and exchanging kisses with her ; 
Theodat was obliged to use greater and greater effort 
not to press the girl to himself in a strong embrace, not 
to draw her to him with those caresses with which the 
god Mars had once drawn to himself the first vestal. 
And Maria not only did not avoid such caresses, but 
she even, as it were, sought them, leaning towards him, 
attracting him to her with all her being. She lingered 
in Theodat 's arms when he kissed her, she herself 
pressed him to her bosom when they were admiring 
the statues and pictures, she seemed every moment to 
be questioning the youth with her large black eyes, as 
if she were asking him, " When ? " " Will it be soon ? " 
" I am tired of waiting." Theodat would ask himself 


" And can it be true that she is crazy ? Then I 

must be crazy too ! And is not our craziness better 
than the reasonable life of other people. Why should 
we deny ourselves the full joy of love ? " 

And so that which was inevitable came to its fulfil- 
ment. The marriage chamber of Maria and Theodat 
was one of the magnificent halls of the Golden House 
of Nero. The resin twists, lighted and placed in 
ancient bronze candlesticks in the form of Cupids, 
were their bridal torches. The union of the young 
couple was blessed by the marble gods, sculptured by 
Praxiteles, who looked down with unearthly smiles 
from their niches of porphyry. The great silence of the 
buried palace hid in itself the first passionate sighs of 
the newly-wedded pair and their pale faces were over- 
shadowed by the mysterious obscurity of the under- 
ground palace. There was no solemn banquet, no 
marriage songs, but long ages of glory and power over- 
shadowed the bridal couch, and its earth and ashes 
seemed to the lovers softer and more desirable than 
the down of Pontine swans in the sleeping apartments 
of Byzantium. 

From that evening Maria and Theodat began to 
meet as lovers. Their long talks were mingled with 
long caresses. They exchanged passionate confessions 
and passionate vows in almost senseless speeches. 
They wandered again through the empty rooms of the 


Golden House, not so much attracted now by the 
pictures and statues, the marble walls and the mosaics, 
as by the possibility in the new room to fall again and 
again into each other's embraces. They still dreamed 
of the future Rome which would be founded by their 
children, but this happy vision was already eclipsed by 
the happiness of their unrestrained kisses in whose 
burning atmosphere vanished not only actuality but 
also dreams. They still called themselves Rhea Silvia 
and the god Mars, but they had already become poor 
earthly lovers, a happy couple, like thousands and 
thousands of others living on the earth after thousands 
and thousands of centuries. 


Never, outside the hall of the subterranean palace, 
did Theodat try to meet Maria nor she him. They 
only existed for one another in the Golden House of 
Nero. Perhaps they might even not have recognised 
one another on the earth. Theodat might have ceased 
to be for Maria the god Mars, and Maria would not 
have seemed to Theodat beautiful and wonderful. 
Truly, after their union, the honourable young Goth 
had said to himself that he ought to find out the real 
relatives of the young girl, to marry her and openly 
acknowledge her as his wife before all people. But day 
after day he put off the fulfilment of this resolve ; it 


would have been terrible for him to destroy the fairy- 
like enchantment in which he was living, terrible to 
exchange the unheard of ways of the underground hall 
for the ordinary realities. Perhaps Theodat did not 
thus explain his delay to himself, but, all the same, he 
did not hasten to bring to an end the burning happiness 
of these secret meetings, and every time he parted with 
Maria he renewed his vow to her that on the morrow 
he would come again. And she expected him and 
asked for nothing more ; for her this visionary blessed- 
ness was sufficient to be the beloved of a god. 

" Thou wilt always love me ? " Theodat would ask, 
pressing the lissom body of Maria in his strong arms. 

But she would shake her head and say : 

" I will love thee until death. But thou art an im- 
mortal, and soon I must die. They will drown me in 
the waters of the Tiber." 

"No, no," Theodat would say, " that will not happen. 
We shall live together and die together. Without thee 
I do not wish to be immortal. And after death we shall 
love each other just the same there in our Olympus." 

But Maria would look at him distrustfully. She 
expected death and was prepared for it. She only 
wished one thing to prolong her happiness as long as 
it was possible. 

The young man told himself that he ought secretly 
to follow Maria and find out where she lived go to her 


real home and to her true father and tell him that he, 
Agapit, loved this young girl and wanted to make her 
his wife. But when the hour of parting drew near, 
when Maria having heard Theodat vow that he would 
come again to-morrow to the Golden House, glided 
away like a thin shadow into the evening distance the 
youth would once more postpone his action. " Let this 
be put off another day ! Let us meet once more as 
Rhea Silvia and the god Mars ! Let this fairy tale still 
continue." And he would go home, to the little room 
he rented from the priest, to dream all night of his 
beloved and solace himself with the new happiness of 
remembrance. And Theodat never asked anyone 
about the strange black-eyed girl, though almost every- 
one in Rome knew Maria. But in reality he did not 
wish to know anything about her except this that she 
was the vestal Ilia, and that every evening she lovingly 
awaited him in the subterranean hall of Nero's under- 
ground palace. 

But one day Maria having waited till the evening, 
awaited Theodat in vain ; the youth did not come. 
Grieved and disturbed, Maria went home again. Her 
mind had in a way become somewhat clearer since she 
had given herself to Theodat and she was able to con- 
sole herself with the thought that something must have 
prevented him from coming. But the youth did 
not come the next day, nor the next. He suddenly 


disappeared completely and it was in vain that Maria 
waited for him at the appointed place hour after hour, 
day after day waited in anguish, in despair, sobbing, 
praying to the ancient gods, and using the words which 
her mother had once taught her : there came no answer 
to her tears and prayers. As before, an unearthly 
smile played over the faces of the gods in their niches 
in the walls ; as before, the superb rooms of the ancient 
palace gleamed with paintings and mosaics, but the 
Golden House suddenly became empty and terrible for 
Maria. From a blessed paradise, from the land of the 
Elysian fields, it had suddenly been changed into a hall 
of cruel torture, into a black Tartarus where was only 
horror and solitude, unendurable grief and unbearable 
pain. With an insane hope Maria went every day as 
before to the underground dwelling, but now she went 
there as to a place of torture. There awaited her the 
hours of disappointed expectation, the terrible re- 
minders of her late happiness and her long-renewed 
inconsolable tears. 

It was most terrible of all, most distressing of all, 
near the bas-relief which represented Rhea Silvia 
sleeping in the sacred cave with the god Mars coming 
towards her. All her remembrances drew Maria to 
this bas-relief, yet near it the most unconquerable grief 
would overwhelm her soul. She would fall on the floor 
and beat her head against the stone mosaic pavement, 


closing her eyes that she might not behold the radiant 
face of the god. " Come back, come back ! " she would 
repeat in her frenzy. " Come just once again ! Divine, 
immortal ; have pity on my sufferings. Let me see 
thee once again. I have not yet told thee all, have not 
given thee all my kisses ; I must, I must see thee once 
again in life. And after that let me die, let them cast 
me into the waters of the Tiber, and I will not resist. 
Have pity on me, Divine One ! " And Maria would 
open her eyes again, and by the faint light of the torch 
she would see the unmoved face of the sculptured god 
and then once more the remembrance of the blessed- 
ness which had suddenly been taken away from her 
would overwhelm her and she would burst into new 
tears and sobs and wails. And she herself would hardly 
know if the god Mars had come to her, if in her life 
there had been those days of perfect happiness or if she 
had dreamed them amongst thousands of other dreams. 
With every day her expectations grew more hopeless. 
Every day she would return to her home more 
anguished and more shaken. In those hours when 
there were glimmerings of consciousness in her soul she 
remembered dimly all that Theodat had once told her 
about himself. Then she would wander through the 
streets of Rome, and under various pretexts she would 
look into all the armourer's workshops, but nowhere 
did she meet with him she sought. To speak to anyone of 


her grief and of her vanished happiness was impossible 
for her and no one would have believed the stories of 
the poor crazy girl everyone would have considered 
them to be new wanderings of her disordered imagina- 
tion. So Maria lived alone with her grief and her 
despair, and her mother only shook her head dejectedly 
as she saw her becoming thinner and more wasted, her 
cheeks more sunken and her eyes burning more fever- 
ishly and with more strange and fiery reflections. 

But the days passed by inconsolably for the poor 
crazy girl, for the despoiled Eternal City, and for the 
whole world in which a new life was slowly coming to 
birth. The days went by ; Justinian celebrated his 
final victories over the remaining Goths, the Lom- 
bards thought out their Italian campaign, the popes 
secretly forged the links of that chain which in the 
future would connect Rome with all the world, the 
Romans continued to live their poor and oppressed 
lives, and one day Maria understood at last that she 
would become a mother. The vestal Rhea Silvia to 
whom the god Mars had condescended from his Olym- 
pus, began to feel within herself the pulsations of a new 
life were they not the twins, the new Romulus and 
Remus who must found the new Rome ? 

To no one, neither to father nor to mother, did Maria 
speak of what she felt. It was her secret. But she was 
strangely quieted by her discovery. Her dreams were 


being completely fulfilled. She must give birth to the 
founders of Rome and afterwards await death in the 
muddy waters of the Tiber. 


Sometimes guests would gather together in the house 
of old Rufus, a neighbouring merchant who sold cheap 
women's finery on the Forum, the coppersmith's son 
who at one time had wished to court Maria, an infirm 
orator who could no longer find a use for his learning, 
and a few other poverty stricken people who were de- 
jectedly living out their days, only meeting one another 
to complain of their unhappy lot. They would drink 
poor wine and eat a little garlic, and among their 
customary complaints they would cautiously interpo- 
late bitter words about the Byzantine rule and the in- 
human demands of the new general who lived on the 
Palatine in place of the departed eunuch Narses. 
Florentia would serve the guests, and pour out wine for 
them, and at the speeches of the old orator she would 
quietly cross herself at the mention of the accursed 

At one of these gatherings Maria was sitting in a 
corner of the room, having come home that day earlier 
than usual from her wanderings. Nobody paid any 
attention to her. They were all accustomed to see 
among them the silent girl whom they had long ago 


considered to be insane. She never joined in the con- 
versation and no one ever addressed a remark to her. 
She sat with her head bent in a melancholy fashion and 
never moved, apparently hearing nothing of the 
speeches made by the drinking party. 

On this day they were talking especially about the 
severity of the new general. But the coppersmith's son 
took upon himself to defend him. 

" We must take into account," said he, " that at the 
present time it is necessary to act rigorously. There 
are many spies going about the city. The barbarians 
may fall on us again. Then we should have to endure 
another siege. These accursed Goths, when they took 
themselves out of the town for good, had hidden their 
treasures in various places. And now first one and 
then another of them comes back to Rome secretly 
and in disguise, digs up the hidden treasure and carries 
it away. Such people must be caught, and it would 
never do to be easy with them ; the Romans will have 
all their riches stolen." 

The words of the coppersmith's son aroused curiosity. 
They began to ask him questions. He readily told all 
that he knew about the treasures hidden by the Goths 
in various parts of Rome, and how those of them who 
had escaped destruction strove to seek out these stores 
and carry them off. Then he added : 

" And it's only lately they caught one of them. He 


was clambering up the Esquiline, where there is an 
opening in the ground. He had a rope-ladder. They 
caught him and took him to the general. The general 
promised to spare him if the accursed one would show 
exactly where the treasure was hidden. But he was 
obstinate and would say nothing. They tortured him 
and tortured him, but got nothing out of him. So they 
tortured him to death." 

" And is he dead ? " asked someone. 

" Of course he's dead," said the coppersmith's son. 

Suddenly an unexpected illumination lit up the 
confused mind of Maria. She stood up to her full 
height. Her large eyes grew still larger. Pressing both 
hands to her bosom, she asked in a breaking voice : 

" And what was his name, what was the name . . . 
of this Goth ? " 

The coppersmith's son knew all about it. So he 
answered at once : 

" He called himself Agapit ; he was working quite 
near here, in an armourer's workshop." 

And with a shriek, Maria fell face downwards on the 

Maria was ill for a long while, for many weeks. On 
the first day of her illness a child was born prema- 
turely, a pitiful lump of flesh which it was impossible 
to call either a boy or a girl. Florentia, with all 


her harshness, loved her daughter. While Maria lay 
unconscious for many days her mother tended her 
and never left her side. She called in a midwife and 
a priest. When at length Maria came to her senses 
Florentia had no reproachful tears for her, she only 
wept inconsolably and pressed her daughter to her 
bosom. Her mother-soul had divined everything. 
Later on, when Maria was a little better her mother 
told her all that had happened and did not reproach 

But Maria listened to her mother with a strange dis- 
trust. How could Rhea Silvia believe it, when she was 
destined, by the will of the gods, to bring forth the twins 
Romulus and Remus ? Either the girl's mind was en- 
tirely overclouded or she believed her former dreams 
more than actuality at the words of her mother she 
merely shook her head in weakness. She thought her 
mother was deceiving her, that during her illness she 
had borne twins which jjiad been taken from her, put 
into a wicker-basket and thrown into the Tiber. But 
Maria knew that a wolf would find and nourish them, 
for they must be the founders of the new Rome. 

As long as Maria was so weak that she could not 
raise her head no one wondered that she would answer 
no questions and would be silent whole days, neither ask- 
ing for food nor drink nor wishing to pronounce a mono- 
syllable. But when she recovered a little and found 


strength to go about the house Maria continued to be 
silent, hiding in her soul some treasured thought. She 
did not even want to talk to her father any more and 
she was not pleased when he began to declaim verses 
from the ancient poets. 

At length, one morning when her father had gone out 
on business and her mother was at market Maria 
unexpectedly disappeared from home. No one noticed 
her departure. And no one saw her again alive. But 
after some days the muddy waters of the Tiber cast her 
lifeless body on the shore. 

Poor girl ! Poor vestal of the broken vows ! One 
would like to believe that throwing thy body into the 
cold embraces of the water thou wert convinced that 
thy children, the twins Romulus and Remus, were at 
that moment drinking the warm milk of the she-wolf, 
and that in time to come they would raise up the first 
rampart of the future Eternal City. If in the moment 
of thy death thou hadst no doubt of this, thou wert 
perhaps the happiest of all the people in that pitiful 
half-destroyed Rome towards which were already 
moving from the Alps the hordes of the wild Lombards. 



r I "HE young scholar Dutrail, whose works on the 
* head ornaments of the Carthaginians had already 
attracted attention, and Bouverie, his former tutor, 
now his friend, a corresponding-member of the 
Academy of Inscriptions, were working at some 
excavations on the western coast of Africa, in the 
French Congo, south of Myamba. It was a small 
expedition, fitted out by private means, and originally 
consisting of eight members. Most of them, however, 
had been unable to endure the deadly climate, and on 
one pretext or another had gone away. There re- 
mained only Dutrail, whose youthful enthusiasm 
conquered all difficulties, and the old Bouverie, who 
having all his life dreamed of taking part in important 
excavations where his special knowledge was con- 
cerned, had in his old age thanks to the patronage of 
his young friend obtained his desire. The excavations 
were extremely interesting ; no one had supposed the 



Phoenician colony to have spread itself so far south on 
the West Coast of Africa, extending even beyond the 
Equator. Every day's work enriched science and 
opened up new perspectives as to the position of 
Phoenicia and her commercial relations in the ninth 
century B.C. 

The work was, however, extremely arduous. No 
European had remained with Dutrail and Bouverie 
except their servant Victor ; all the workmen were 
negroes of the place. True, it had been decided that in 
place of those who had left other archaeologists should 
come and bring with them not only some French work- 
men and a new store of necessary instruments, guns, 
and food supplies, but also the letters, books, and news- 
papers of which Dutrail and Bouverie had long been 
deprived. But day followed day, and the wished -for 
steamer did not appear. Their stores were decreas- 
ing, they were obliged to hunt for their food, and 
Dutrail was especially anxious about the exhaustion 
of their supply of cartridges ; the natives were already 
sullen and insubordinate, and in the event of a riot 
among them their lack of arms might be dangerous. 
Besides this, the Frenchmen suffered greatly from the 
climate and from the intolerable heat, which was so 
great that in the daytime it was impossible to touch a 
stone without burning the hand. And now at last the 
bold archaeologists seemed likely to be overcome by the 


malevolent local fever which had attacked several of 
the company before their departure. 

Dutrail triumphed over everything. Day after day 
he subsisted on the flesh of seabirds tasting strongly of 
fish, and drank the warmish water from a neighbouring 
spring ; he kept the mutinous crowd of negro-workmen 
in check and himself worked with them, and yet still 
found time at night to write his diary and to keep a 
detailed account of all the archaeological treasures they 
had obtained. In the tiny hut which they had built 
under the shelter of a cliff he had already put in order 
a whole museum of wonderful things which had lain 
almost three centuries in the earth and now being 
restored to the world would soon bring about a revolu- 
tion in Phoenician lore. Bouverie, on the contrary, 
though desiring with all his soul to remain with his 
young friend, was manifestly becoming weaker. It 
was more difficult for an old man to struggle against 
misfortunes and deprivation. Often, as he worked, his 
spade or his gun would simply drop from his hands and 
he himself would fall unconscious to the ground. 
Added to this he had begun to have attacks of the 
local fever. Dutrail tried to cure him with quinine and 
the other medicines which were in their travelling 
medicine-chest, but the old man's strength was utterly 
giving way ; his cheeks had fallen in, his eyes burned 
with an unhealthy glitter, and at night-time he was 


tortured by paroxysms of dry coughing, shivering fits, 
fever and delirium. 

Dutrail had long ago made up his mind to compel 
his friend to return to Europe as soon as the steamer 
should come, but for a long while he had been afraid to 
speak about the matter. He felt that the old man 
would certainly refuse would prefer, as a scholar, to 
die at his post, the more so as lately he had often 
spoken of death. To Dutrail's astonishment, however, 
Bouverie himself began to speak of leaving, saying it 
was evident that they must part, and although it was 
bitter for him to abandon the work he had begun, his 
illness compelled him to go, so that he might die in his 
native land. In the depths of his soul Dutrail was 
almost offended by these last remarks of the old man, 
who could prefer his superstitious desire to be in his 
native land at the moment of his death before the 
high interest of scientific research, but explaining this 
by Bouverie's illness he at length applauded his friend's 
resolution, and said all that might be expected from 
him under the circumstances that the fever was not 
so dangerous, that it would pass with the change of 
climate, tl^at they would still do much work together, 
and so forth. 

Two days later Bouverie astonished his friend still 
further. On that day the excavators had come upon 
a new and rich tomb, Dutrail was in ecstasy over such 


a discovery and he could neither speak nor think of 
anything else. But in the evening Bouverie called his 
former pupil to his side in his half of the little hut and 
begged him to witness his will. 

" I'm much to blame," said Bouverie, " not to have 
made my will before, but I've never had the time. All 
my life I've been entirely taken up with science, and I 
have never had time to think about my own affairs . But 
my health is getting so much worse that perhaps I shall 
never get away from here, so I must formulate my last 
desires. We are only three Europeans here, but you 
and Victor are enough to witness my will. 

So as not to agitate the old man, Dutrail agreed. 
The will was quite an ordinary one. Bouverie left the 
little money he had to dispose of to a niece, for he was 
unmarried and had no other relatives. He left small 
sums to his old servant, to the owner of the house in 
which he had lived for forty years, and to various other 
people. His collection of Phoenician and Carthaginian 
antiquities, gathered together during his long life-time, 
the old man bequeathed to the Louvre, and some 
separate small things to his friends, Dutrail among 
the number. 

Coming at length to the last clause, Bouverie said, 
in an agitated manner : 

" This, strictly speaking, ought not to be included in 


the will. It is simply my request to you personally, 
Dutrail. But listen to it all the same." 

The request was that after his death Bouverie 
wanted his body to be sent to France and buried in his 
native town by the side of his mother. As he read this 
last clause of the will the old man could not restrain 
his tears. In a breaking voice he began to implore that 
whatever might happen his request should be fulfilled. 

By a great effort Dutrail controlled his anger and 
answered as gently and tenderly as he could. 

" Devil take it, dear friend ! You see, I'm quite sure 
you're not so ill as you think. If I agreed to witness 
your will, I did so for one reason, to please you, and 
for another, because it is never superfluous to put one's 
affairs in order. But as I am strongly convinced that 
you will get better and will laugh at your present 
anxiety about yourself, I will permit myself to make 
some objections." 

With the greatest caution Dutrail pointed out to 
Bouverie that his request could hardly be fulfilled ; 
there were no means at hand for embalming the body 
and no coffin which could be hermetically sealed. And 
he asked whether it were worse to lie after death under 
African palms side by side with the dead of the great 
past than in some small provincial French cemetery. 
The only thing it was possible to promise in any case, 
under such circumstances, was that his body should be 


buried here in Africa at first and afterwards taken to 
France, though this would be difficult, troublesome, 
and, above all, useless. 

" That's what I was afraid of ! " cried the old man 
despairingly. " I was afraid that you would say just 
that. But I beg of you, I conjure you, to fulfil my 
request, whatever it may cost you, even though . . . 
even though you may have to give up the excavations 
for a time." 

Bouverie entreated, begged, wept. And at last, in 
order to pacify the old man, Dutrail was obliged to 
consent, to give his word of honour- and even his oath. 
The will was signed. 


Next day, even before the sun had risen, their 
labours were resumed. They began to excavate the 
magnificent tomb which they had come across the 
evening before. It was evident that the Phoenician 
settlement would show itself much more significant 
than they had at first supposed. At least, the tomb 
they had discovered had clearly belonged to a rich and 
powerful family, several generations of which had not 
only spent their whole lives under the inhospitable 
skies of equatorial Africa, but had also prepared here 
for themselves an eternal resting-place. The sepulchre 
was built of massive blocks of stone and ornamented 


with bas-reliefs. Dutrail untiringly directed the work- 
men and often took a pick or a spade himself. 

After great difficulty they succeeded in discovering 
the entrance to the tomb an enormous iron door that 
in spite of the twenty-eight centuries which had elapsed 
since it was closed had to be carefully broken to pieces. 
Having succeeded at last in forcing an entrance and 
letting fresh air flow into the recesses of the tomb 
Dutrail and Bouverie went in themselves, carrying 
torches in their hands. The picture which presented 
itself to their gaze was enough to send an archseologist 
out of his mind with delight. The tomb was apparently 
absolutely untouched. In the midst of it a stone coffin 
was raised upon a stone platform in the shape of a 
fantastic monster, and around this were many articles 
for household use, some fine specimens of crescent- 
shaped lamps, implements of war, images of gods, and 
other articles whose significance it would have been 
difficult to define at once. 

But the most striking fact was that the inner walls 
of the tomb were almost entirely covered with paint- 
ings and inscriptions. With the inrush of the fresh air, 
the colours of the paintings, as is always the case, 
swiftly began to fade, but the inscriptions, which were 
written in some sort of black composition and even cut 
out to some depth in the stone, seemed as if wrought 
but yesterday. This especially enraptured Dutrail, 


for until then he had come across very few Phoenician 
inscriptions. He already had visions of unearthing 
here entirely new historical data, information, for 
example, about the connection of the Phoenicians with 
Atlantis, of which Shleeman's nephew had read in a 
Phoenician inscription on a vase found in Syria. 

In spite of the scorching heat, Dutrail busied himself 
in transferring all the things they had found to the 
museum, and he did not stop until the last crescent- 
shaped lamp had been placed in the wished-for spot. 
Then, carefully closing up the entrance to the tomb, 
the young scholar lay down to rest ; but no sooner had 
the heat abated a little than he was again at work. He 
occupied himself in copying and deciphering the in- 
scriptions, a work which with all his splendid know- 
ledge of the language was extremely complicated. 
When evening came he had succeeded in copying 
only an insignificant number of the inscriptions and in 
approximately deciphering still fewer. 

That night, sitting in their little hut, by the dim light 
of a lamp, Dutrail shared his discoveries with Bouverie 
and begged his help in the interpretation of various 
difficult expressions. One series of inscriptions was 
clearly a simple genealogy leading up through ten or 
twelve generations. But one contained an adjuration 
against violators of the peace of the tomb. Dutrail 
interpreted it approximately thus : 


" In the name of Astarte who has been down into hell 
may there be peace for me, Eluli, son of Eluli, buried 
here. May I lie here for a thousand years and for 
eternity. Nearest and dearest, fellow-countrymen and 
strangers, friends and foes, I adjure : ' Touch not my 
ashes, nor my gold, nor the things belonging to me. If 
people persuade thee, give no ear to them. And thou, 
bold man, reading these words which no human eye 
should ever see, cursed be thou upon the earth and 
under the earth where is neither eating nor drinking. 
Mayest thou never receive a place of rest with Rephaim, 
never be buried in a tomb, never have a son nor any 
issue. May the sun not warm thee, may wood never 
bear thee up upon water, may there not depart from 
thee for one hour the demon of torture, formless, piti- 
less, whose strength never becomes less.' ' 

The inscription was continued further, but the end 
was unintelligible. Bouverie listened to the translation 
in profound silence and did not wish to take any share 
in deciphering the rest. Pleading illness, he went off 
to his own half of the hut behind a wooden partition. 
But Dutrail sat on for a long while over his notes, con- 
sulting books they had brought with them, thinking 
over every expression and striving to understand every 
shade of meaning in the inscription. 



Late that night, when Dutrail was already sleeping 
the sound sleep of a wearied man, he was suddenly 
awakened by Bouverie. The old man had lighted a 
candle, and by its light he seemed still paler than usual. 
His hair was in disorder, his whole appearance indicated 
an extreme degree of terror. 

" What is the matter, Bouverie ? " asked Dutrail. 
" You're ill ? " 

Though it was difficult to struggle against his desire 
to sleep, Dutrail made an effort to awake, remembering 
the serious illness of his old friend. But Bouverie 
did not answer the question ; he asked, in a broken 
voice : 

" Did you see him too ? " 

" Whom could I see ? " objected Dutrail. " I'm so 
tired at the end of the day that I sleep without dream- 

" This was not a dream," said Bouverie sadly, 
" and I saw him go from me towards you." 

" Whom ? " 

" The Phoenician whose tomb we dug out." 

" Your mind's wandering, dear Bouverie," said 
Dutrail. "You have fever: I'll prepare a dose of 
quinine for you." 


" I'm not wandering," objected the old man obstin- 
ately. " I saw this man quite clearly. He was shaven 
and beardless, with a wrinkled face, and he was dressed 
as a soldier. He stood by my bed and looked threaten- 
ingly at me, and said ..." 

" Wait a moment," interrupted Dutrail, trying to 
bring the old man to reason " in what language did he 
speak to you ? " 

" In Phoenician. I don't know if perhaps at another 
time I should have understood the Phoenician language, 
but at that moment I understood every word." 

" What did the apparition say to you ? " 

" He said to me : ' I am Eluli, son of Eluli, he 
whose peaceful repose you, strangers, have disturbed, 
not dreading my curse . Therefore I will have vengeance 
on thee, and what has befallen me shall come upon 
thee. Thy ashes shall not rest in thy native land, but 
shall be the prey of the hyena and jackal. I will 
torment thee both sleeping and waking, all thy life and 
after thy life, and until the end of time/ When he had 
said this he went towards you, and I thought you 
would see him too." 

Dutrail felt convinced that his friend's state was the 
result of illness, easily explained by the heat, by his 
continuous thinking about death, and by the agitation 
consequent on their remarkable discovery. Wishing 
to bring the old man into a reasonable frame of mind, 


Dutrail did not remind him that apparitions were a 
delusion of sight, but he tried to make clear all the 
implausibility of the vision. 

" We did not excavate the tomb," said he, " to 
insult the ashes lying there, or to profit by the things 
collected there ; we had a disinterested scientific 
object. Eluli, son of Eluli, has no reason for being 
angered with us. Science resurrects the past, and we, 
in raising up Phoenician antiquities, have also raised 
up this Eluli. The old Phoenician ought rather to be 
grateful to us for calling him from oblivion. If it 
hadn't been for us, who in our day would have known 
that a thousand years before Christ there once lived in 
Africa a certain Eluli, son of Eluli ? " 

Dutrail talked to the old man as to a sick child. At 
first Bouverie would not listen to any arguments and 
he demanded what was clearly impossible that all 
the things should be taken back to the tomb at once, 
and the tomb itself buried anew. Little by little, how- 
ever, he began to give way, and agreed to postpone the 
decision of the matter until the morning. Then 
Dutrail lifted the old man in his arms and laid him on 
his bed, covering him with quilts as he began to shiver, 
and sat down by his bedside until the sick man 
fell into a restless and disturbed sleep. " What havoc 
illness plays with even the clearest mind ! " he thought 



On the morrow, logic and the obviousness of Dutrail's 
arguments gained the day. Bouverie agreed that his 
vision had been the result of a feverish delirium. He 
also agreed that it would be a crime against science and 
against humanity to fill up the excavations of the tomb. 
The work went on with the former enthusiasm. And 
in the tomb of Eluli and in others near it they found 
even more precious historical things. The friends only 
awaited the arrival of the steamer with the necessary 
tools and some European workmen to begin excavating 
the town. 

But Bouverie's health did not improve. The fever 
did not leave him ; he often cried aloud at night and 
leapt from his bed in unreasoning terror. Once the old 
man confessed that he had seen the Phoenician Eluli 
once again. Dutrail thought it good to laugh at him, 
and after this the old man spoke no more of his visions. 
But, all the same, he seemed to fade daily, and he even 
began to manifest signs of mental disturbance : he was 
afraid of the darkness and of the night, he did not wish 
to go into the museum, and presently he absolutely 
abandoned the excavations. Dutrail shook his head 
and waited impatiently for the steamer, hoping that a 
sea-voyage and his return to France might do the old 
man good. 

L 2 


But in vain did the two friends await the steamer. 
When at length it arrived, in the place where the 
members of the expedition had established their little 
settlement nothing was found but a heap of ashes and 
charred wood. It was evident that the negro-workmen 
had mutinied, killed the Europeans and stolen their 
property and carried off all the things which had been 
arranged in the museum. The great discovery of 
Dutrail and Bouverie, which they had dreamed would 
enrich Phoenician lore, was lost to mankind. 



HHHERE is no doubt that I dreamed all this, 
-* dreamed it last night. True, I never thought 
that a dream could be so circumstantial and so con- 
secutive. But none of the events of this dream have 
any connection with what I am experiencing now or 
with anything that I can remember. Yet how other- 
wise can a dream be differentiated from reality except 
in this way that it is divorced from the continuous 
chain of events which occur in our waking hours ? 

I dreamed of a knight's castle, somewhere on the 
shore of the sea. Beyond it there was a field and a 
stunted yet ancient forest of pines. In front of it there 
stretched an expanse of grey northern billows. The 
castle had been roughly built with stone of a terrible 
thickness, and from the side it looked like a wild and 
fantastic cliff. Its deep, irregularly placed windows 
were like the nests of monstrous birds. Within the 
castle were high gloomy chambers with sounding 
passages between them. 
As I now call to mind the furniture of the rooms, the 


dress of the people about me, and other trifling details, 
I clearly understand to what period my dream had 
taken me back. It was the life of the Middle Ages, 
dreadful, austere, still half-savage, still full of impulses 
not yet under control. But in the dream I had not at 
first this understanding of the time but only a dull 
feeling that I myself was foreign to that life into which 
I was plunged. I felt confusedly that I was some kind 
of new-comer into that world. 

At times this feeling was more intense. Something 
would suddenly begin to torture my memory, like a 
name which one wants to remember and cannot. When 
I was shooting birds with a cross-bow I would long for 
another and more effective weapon. The knights, en- 
cased in their armour of iron, accustomed to murder, 
seeking only for plunder, appeared to me to be de- 
generates, and I foresaw the possibility of a different 
and more refined existence. As I argued with the 
monks on scholastic questions, I had a foretaste of some 
other kind of learning, deeper, fuller, freer. But when 
I made an effort to bring something into my memory, 
my consciousness was bedimmed anew. 

I lived in the castle as a prisoner, or, more truly, as 
an hostage. A special tower was allotted to me. I was 
treated with respect, but was kept under guard. I had 
no definite occupation of any kind, and the lack of 
employment was burdensome to me. But there was 


one thing which brought happiness and ecstasy into my 
life : I was in love. 

The governor of the casile was named Hugo von 
Rizen. He was a giant with a voice of thunder and 
the strength of a bear. He was a widower. But he had 
one daughter, Matilda, tall, graceful, bright-eyed. She 
was like St. Catherine as the Italians paint her, and I 
loved her passionately and tenderly. As Matilda took 
charge of all the housekeeping in the castle, we used to 
meet several times a day, and every meeting would fill 
my soul with blessing. 

For a long while I could not make up my mind to tell 
Matilda of my love, though of course my eyes betrayed 
my secret. I uttered the fateful words quite un- 
expectedly, as it were, one morning at the close of 
winter. We met on the narrow staircase leading to the 
watch-tower. And though it had often happened that 
we had been alone together in the snow-covered 
garden, and in the dim hall, under the marvellous light 
of the moon, for some reason or other it was specially 
at this moment that I felt I could not be silent. I 
pressed myself close up against the wall, stretched out 
my hands and said, " Matilda, I love you." Matilda 
did not blench, she simply bent her head and answered 
softly, " I love you too, you are my chosen one." Then 
she ran quickly up the stairs and I stood there, against 
the wall, still holding out my hands. 


In the most consecutive of dreams there is always 
some break in the action. I can remember nothing of 
what happened in the days immediately following my 
confession of love. I remember only that I was walking 
with Matilda on the shore, though everything showed 
that some weeks must have elapsed. The air was 
already filled with the odours of spring, but the snow 
still lay on the ground. The waves, with thunderous 
noise, were rolling in with white crests on to the stony 

It was evening, and the sun was sinking into the sea, 
like a magic bird of fire, setting the edges of the clouds 
aflame. We walked along side by side. 

Matilda was wearing a coat lined with ermine, and 
the ends of her white scarf floated in the wind. We 
dreamed of the future, the happy future, forgetting 
that we were children of different races, and that 
between us lay an abyss of national enmity. 

It was difficult for us to talk, because I did not know 
Matilda's language very well, and she was quite 
ignorant of mine, but we understood much, even with- 
out words. And even now my heart trembles as I 
remember this walk along the shore within sight of the 
gloomy castle, in the rays of the setting sun. I was 
experiencing and living through true happiness, 
whether awake or in a dream what difference does it 
make ? 


It must have been on the following morning that I 
was told Hugo wished to speak to me. I was taken 
into his presence. He was seated on a high bench 
covered with elk-furs. A monk was reading a letter 
to him. Hugo was glowering and angry. When he 
saw me, he said sternly : 

" Aha ! Do you know what your countrymen are 
doing ? Was it such a little thing for us to defeat you 
at Isborsk. We set fire to Pskov, and you besought us 
to have mercy. Now you're asking help from Alex- 
ander, who glories in the appellation of Nevsky. But 
we are not like the Swedes ! Sit down and write to 
your people of our might, so that they may be brought 
to reason. And if you refuse, then you and all the 
other hostages will pay cruelly for your refusal." 

It is difficult to explain fully what feelings took 
possession of me then. Love for my native land was the 
first which spoke powerfully in my soul an elemental, 
inexplicable love, like one's love towards one's mother. 
I felt that I was a Russian, that in front of me were 
enemies, that here I stood for all Russia. At the same 
moment, I perceived and acknowledged with bitter- 
ness that the happiness of which Matilda and I had 
dreamed had for ever departed from me, that my 
love for a woman must be sacrificed to my love for 
my native land. . , . 

But scarcely had these feelings filled my soul, when 


in the very depths of my consciousness there suddenly 
flamed an unexpected light. I understood that I was 
sleeping, that everything the castle, Hugo, Matilda, 
and my love for her, everything was but a dream. And 
I suddenly wanted to laugh in the faces of this stern 
knight and his monk-assistant, for I knew already that 
I should wake and there would be nothing no danger, 
no grief. I felt an inconquerable courage in my soul, 
because I could go away from my enemies into that 
world whither they were unable to follow me. 

Holding my head high, I replied to Hugo : 
' You know yourself that this is not true. Who 
called you to these lands ? This sea is Russian from 
time immemorial, it belonged to the Varyagi. You came 
here to convert the people, and instead of that you have 
built castles on the hills, you oppress the people and 
you threaten our towns even as far as to Ladoga itself. 
Alexander Nevsky undertook a holy work. I rejoice 
that the people of Pskov had no pity on their hostages. 
I will not write what you wish, but I will encourage 
them to fight against you. God will defend the right ! " 

I said this as if I were declaiming upon a stage, and 
I purposely chose ancient expressions so that my 
language might fit the period, but my words threw 
Hugo into a frenzy. 

" Dog ! " cried he to me. " Tartar slave ! I will 
order you to be broken on the wheel ! " 


Then*there came swiftly to my remembrance, as if it 
had been a revelation, given to a seer from on high, 
the whole course of Russian history, and I spoke to 
the German triumphantly and sternly, as a prophet : 

" Know this, that Alexander will overcome you on 
the ice of the Chudsky Lake. Knights without number 
will there be hewn down. And our descendants will 
take all this land under their domination and have 
your descendants in subjection to them." 

" Take him away ! " cried Hugo, the veins of his 
neck swelling and purpling with anger. 

The servants led me away, not to my tower, but to 
a noisome underground place, a dungeon. 

The days dragged away in the damp and darkness. 
I lay on rotting straw, mouldy bread was thrown into 
me for food, for whole days I heard no sound of a 
human voice. My garments were soon in rags, my hair 
was matted, my body was covered with sores. Only 
in unattainable dreams did I picture to myself the sea 
and the sunlight, the spring, the fresh air, and Matilda. 
And in the near future the wheel and whipping-post 
awaited me. 

As the joy of my meetings with Matilda had been 
real to me, so were my sufferings in her father's 
dungeon. But the consciousness in myself that I was 
sleeping and having a bad dream did not become dim. 
Knowing that the moment of awakening was at hand 


and that the walls of my prison would disperse as a 
mist, I found in myself the strength to bear all my 
tortures unrepiningly. When the Germans proposed 
that I should buy my freedom with the price of 
treachery to my native land, I answered with a defiant 
refusal. And my enemies themselves esteemed my 
firmness, which cost me less than they thought. 

Here my dream breaks off . . . . I may have perished 
by the hand of the executioner, or have been delivered 
from bondage by the victory of the Battle of Ice on 
April 5th, 1241, as were other hostages from Pskov. 
But I simply awakened. And here I am, sitting at my 
writing-table, surrounded by familiar and beloved 
books, and I am recording this long dream, intending 
to begin the ordinary life of this day. Here, in this 
world, among these people who are in the next room 
I am at home, I am actually . . . 

But a strange and dreadful thought quietly arises 
from the dark depths of my consciousness. What if 
now I am sleeping and dreaming and I shall suddenly 
awake on the straw, in the underground dungeon of 
the castle of Hugo von Rizen ? 





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